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Abstract

Today’s college-aged students are graduating into a world that relies on multidisciplinary talents to succeed. Engineering college majors are more likely to find jobs after college that are outside of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, including jobs in healthcare, management, and social services. A survey of engineering undergraduate students at the University of Colorado Boulder in November 2012 indicated a desire by students to simultaneously pursue secondary teacher licensure alongside their engineering degrees: 25 percent ‘‘agreed’’ or ‘‘strongly agreed’’ that they ‘‘would be interested in earning grades 7–12 science or math teaching licenses while [they] earn [their] engineering degrees. As colleges of engineering education, how can we support the success of our students in these multidisciplinary fields post-graduation, including teaching?

The University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science in partnership with the School of Education, has developed an innovative program that results in graduates attaining a secondary school STEM teacher license concurrently with an engineering BS degree. This streamlined pathway through engineering educates and prepares a workforce of secondary teachers capable of high-level teaching in multiple STEM subjects—either engineering coupled with science (biology, chemistry, and physics), or engineering coupled with mathematics. These engineers are motivated and inspired to pursue two career routes because they find value and passion for both professions. One study showed that successful mathematics and science teachers ‘‘would have liked to be engineers’’. Teachers expressed that being comfortable and understanding engineering phenomena is a barrier to why they initially did not pursue an engineering career. We are fostering students that develop both an engineering mindset alongside a commitment to giving back through secondary teaching in this program.

This research aims to discover if and how students in the engineering + teaching program identify themselves as both an engineering student and as a teaching student. We are exploring why students decided to pursue engineering and teaching and how they plan to use engineering, teaching, or both in their futures. It is important to also understand how we attract students to this program. Given the diverse student experience inherent in this degree program built around passion and desire to combine engineering and teaching, the paper addresses the questions, ‘‘How do engineering knowledge and teaching knowledge intersect for undergraduate engineering students?’’ and ‘‘What challenges exist to navigating an engineering major with a teaching license pathway?’’

Initial survey and focus group data collected this past academic year indicates that students in this degree program identify as both an engineer and a teacher. Using mixed-methods analysis informed by current education research—including quantitative and qualitative survey questions and small focus groups—we explore the ways in which students discovered this program and how they plan to incorporate the two disciplines in their future. We are interested in how engineering students will incorporate the knowledge that they learned in engineering classes into the lesson plans they design for secondary classroom students.