Numerous studies have demonstrated that educators having degrees in their subject areas significantly enhances student achievement, particularly in secondary mathematics and science (Chaney, 1995; Goe, 2007; Rowan, Chiang, & Miller, 1997; Wenglinsky, 2000). Yet, science teachers in states that adopt the Next Generation Science Standards are facilitating classroom engineering activities despite the fact that few have backgrounds in engineering. This quantitative study analyzed ex-post facto data of 81 educators and 2,455 students who participated in WaterBotics, an innovative underwater robotics program for middle and high school students. This study investigated if educators having backgrounds in engineering (i.e., undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering) positively affected student learning on two engineering outcomes:
1) the engineering design process, and
2) understanding of careers in engineering (who engineers are and what engineers do).
The results indicated that educators having backgrounds in engineering did not significantly affect student understanding of the engineering design process or careers in engineering when compared to educators having backgrounds in science, mathematics, technology education, or other disciplines. There were, however, statistically significant differences between the groups of educators. Students of educators with backgrounds in technology education had the highest mean score on assessments pertaining to the engineering design process while students of educators with disciplines outside of STEM had the highest mean scores on instruments that assess for student understanding of careers in engineering. This might be due to the fact that educators who lack degrees in engineering but who teach engineering do a better job of “sticking to the script” of engineering curricula.
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