Practice Brief 45 -- Topics: Engineering Instruction

How to focus students’ engineering design projects on science learning

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Why It Matters To You
  • Teachers should include engineering design learning tasks as a way for students to learn science concepts and how to engage in problem solving.
  • District staff & PD providers should support teachers in developing engineering design projects in science and develop budgets for purchasing engineering design materials.
  • School leaders should encourage teachers to create and adapt engineering design projects in science and provide a supportive environment for teachers to test and refine designs.

What Is The Issue?

Science and engineering share many of the same practices, however, they are fundamentally different fields with different pursuits and processes. Scientists typically seek multiple strands of evidence to support or refute claims about the natural world, while engineers use an iterative problem solving process to meet specific, often human-related, needs. Tensions between these two fields can make it difficult to integrate engineering into the science classroom, but simple strategies can help teachers use engineering design as an inclusive way to teach science concepts.



Reflection Questions

  • Each year, engineering should be taught in science class according to the NRC Framework & NGSS. Discuss: "any [science] education that focuses predominantly on the detailed products of scientific labor—the facts of science— without developing an understanding of how those facts were established or that ignores the many important applications of science in the world misrepresents science and marginalizes the importance of engineering."
  • How do scientists and engineers engage in practices differently & how can you integrate practices into classroom instruction?
  • Which science concepts in your curriculum lend themselves to engineering design projects?

Things to Consider

Attending to Equity

Recommended Actions You Can Take


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Work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License. Others may adapt with attribution. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Opinions expressed are not those of any funding agency.