Curriculum and Instruction

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


There is the almost universal recognition that the world of young people is technologically rich, and yet little of that world can be seen in the classrooms in which they find themselves for a good portion of their lives. It is our belief that our students often see little relevance in the mathematics and science they are being taught because there are not enough interesting and relevant contexts against which they can understand and appreciate the need to learn these subjects. On the other hands, there is an abundance of "real" engineering concepts and experiences to which young people can, and should, be exposed. Taken together, we believe the above are root causes for the lack of interest on the part of more young people to consider careers in science and engineering, an issue which clearly affects the economic growth in our region.

Many years ago, recognizing the need to infuse more engineering concepts into the middle school experience, New York State had the foresight to lead the Nation by instituting required courses in technology education. What we have failed to do, though, is to exploit the opportunities that engineering provides to fundamentally change what is taught and how students learn and retain understanding. The time has come to rethink how mathematics, science and technology is taught in our middle schools, and to begin working towards a systemic change in our educational system which will lead to an integrated MST approach to teaching. We recognize that this will be a difficult road to travel, and that if these ideas are to be successfully implemented, we must be sensitive to the constraints that are present. These include, amongst other things, a dearth of rigorous engineering experiences on the part of many existing middle school technology education teachers, and a school day that is segmented into disjoint content pieces. With this as background, we have set the following goals for this proposal:


  1. to have a group of Capital Region middle school mathematics, science and technology education teachers experience "real" engineering concepts and content, and to understand how useful products are engineered, designed and manufactured;
  2. to make MST teachers more aware of the interaction between their areas of expertise, and to teach them how an interesting engineering context can be used to drive the teaching of all of these subjects; and
  3. to increase the number of students who would consider MST careers.

These goals will be met by developing and implementing a series of activities which will take place during the summer of 2007, and into the 2007-08 school year. These activities will be:

  1. sixty to seventy hours of classroom instruction;
  2. the development of integrated MST lesson plans;
  3. summer field trips for teachers; and
  4. school year field trips for students.

The extent to which we achieve these goals will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. The number and characteristics of teachers involved in the professional development activities and factors that facilitated recruitment and retention.
  2. Changes in teachers' affect and knowledge about engineering content and concepts;
  3. Changes in teachers' knowledge about engineering pedagogy and its relationship to math. science, and technology standards, content, and instructional practices
  4. Changes in teachers' design and implementation of STEM based curriculum and instruction such that they are expanded to include more engineering concepts
  5. Changes in students' knowledge of and affect about engineering careers.

Contact: Dr. Lester Rubinfeld rubenl@rpi.edu

Last Updated: June 17, 2009