Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Johannes Strobel

Committee Chair

Johannes Strobel

Committee Member 1

Heidi Diefes-Dux

Committee Member 2

William Watson

Committee Member 3

James Lehman


The emphasis on engaging young learners in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions is driving calls for educational reform. One movement that is gaining momentum is exposing K-12 learners to engineering. With the advent of the Next Generation Science Standards (2012b), engineering is being more formally integrated into standards for the K-12 level. As a result, in-service elementary teachers will need to become familiar with the core concepts of engineering to effectively teach aspects of the subject in their classrooms. Elementary engineering teacher professional development (EETPD) has been identified as a method to disseminate engineering content knowledge to elementary teachers.

The purpose of this qualitative research study was to investigate the perspectives of forty-one in-service elementary teachers from a school district in the south-central United States. Teachers were asked to define a successful implementation of teacher professional development, identify measures of success, describe an ideal work climate for implementing what was learned from EETPD, and share about the value of support from engineers in their community. Data were collected using a modified version of the

National Staff Development Council Professional Development Survey (2005), focus groups, and individual interviews. Data were analyzed using established qualitative coding practices, informed by the Characteristics of Effective Professional Development (NSDC, 2009) as a theoretical framework.

The results of the study revealed that teachers require demonstration of multiple levels of relevance to generate teacher buy-in, a nurturing environment for professional growth, and strong partnerships with engineers in addition to the Characteristics of Effective Professional Development (NSDC, 2009). Unique factors to engineering in particular consist of the need for a practice run of student engineering activities and the need to develop engineering curricula that is age appropriate for early childhood and subjects such as reading, writing, and social studies. Teachers suggested student engagement, rise in student achievement, and high integration of the engineering in the classroom as success measures of the EETPD.