Practice Brief 7 -- Topics: Background Engineering Instruction Equity Culture

Learning STEM Through Design: Students Benefit from Expanding What Counts as "Engineering"

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Why It Matters To You
  • Teachers should embed engineering cycles in their science instruction and heighten relevance by focusing on local and community-centered design.
  • District staff and PD providers should help teachers include engineering design in their teaching and provide them with relevant tools and skills to facilitate the design work of students.
  • School Leaders should support building capacity in engineering and design instruction in science across K-12 grades as an equity priority.

What is the Issue?

Engineering design activities can be a powerful entry point into science learning. Engineering is typically defined very narrowly in K-12 education, which keeps students from engaging in rich classroom activities that connect professional practices to the many ways engineering and design can play out in their personal lives and communities. For this reason, it is useful to promote a broad view of "engineering" in the classroom.



Issues to Think About

  • Where in your curriculum can you have students identify a problem in their community or home that leverages scientific knowledge in NGSS and then design a solution to address it?
  • What practices do youth engage in that you can leverage as part of their communities or personal hobbies that involve iterative design or engineering processes?
  • Engineering is interdisciplinary. What are some everyday endeavors where engineering design can be brought to bear?
  • When does the design work of students not involve an engineering approach?

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.