Secondary Science Teacher Professional Development: NGSS Engineering Design

"At its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions. It is a noble profession."
Queen Elizabeth II

Lesson Plans

This teacher professional development focused on how to bring engineering design into secondary science classes. With the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in Nevada and other states, teachers are expected to incorporate the engineering design process and engineering practices into their lessons. Unfortunately, few teachers have prior experience with engineering design and practices, and there are limited training opportunities. Therefore, this professional development was created to equip teachers with the knowledge and resources they need to fully implement NGSS and engage students in engineering design.

Over the course of this 40-hour professional development, teachers learned and experienced the NGSS design process and engineering practices. The overarching task was to create a solar water heater system or a water treatment device to use in their classroom. These topics were chosen for alignment with the Solar Energy, Water, and Environment Nexus themes. After learning about problem definition, criteria and constraints, using an evaluation matrix, and optimizing designs, teachers went through the entire design process with mentors and peer support for help. Within eight days, teacher's design sketches became reality. They evaluated design options, selected the best alternative, and determined what materials to purchase. Throughout the building phase, teachers optimized the design until they reached the end product. The newly built solar thermal water heaters and water treatment devices are now being put to use in teachers' classrooms. In addition to learning engineering design and practices, teachers gained technical skills (e.g. soldering, basic plumbing, operating power tools) that they can use to help students with their projects.

The program was held in fall 2015, summer 2016, fall 2016 and summer 2017. In total, 18 teachers participated. Evaluation data demonstrate a successful program. All teachers reported high or very high growth in identifying strengths and weaknesses of the system they designed. Also, 100% of teachers learned the stages of the NGSS engineering design process and felt comfortable teaching engineering design after the training. Anyone with specific questions about the program may contact Dr. Erica Marti (erica.marti@unlv.edu) .