In this article, we describe an assignment that we have developed in our Engineering for Elementary Teachers course. The assignment was designed to address social justice within the engineering design process. In this course, preservice teachers (PSTs) develop an engineering project that integrates six criteria of engineering for social justice into their lesson plan as a way to make the social relevance of engineering more apparent. Beyond having teachers develop an engineering lesson plan, the goal is to increase awareness of the social justice dimension of engineering as a strategy for integrating culturally relevant pedagogies into engineering lessons. In this article, we share several lessons our PSTs have developed as well as insights that they gained about the relationship between engineering and social justice. We also share some of the challenges that the PSTs faced and the insights that we gained about integrating social justice criteria into engineering lessons.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2006. Since its ratification, the educational landscape has rapidly changed because inclusion requires a radical restructuring of mainstream schooling. At the classroom level, adaptations must be made to course materials, teaching approaches, testing, and other aspects of classroom teaching to meet the needs of an increasingly heterogeneous student body. To prepare future teachers to meet the objectives set forth in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), it is necessary to develop preservice course modules that specifically cultivate sensitivity toward students with disabilities and train preservice teachers in how to adapt their teaching to accommodate students with disabilities or chronic illnesses. This type of training is critically important for preservice science teachers. The idea of inclusive education can be particularly daunting because of the complexity of science topics and the variety of educational activities that would require adaptation (e.g., course materials, experiments, and excursions). This article outlines an online, project-oriented module that effectively increased preservice science teachers’ positive views on inclusion and their self-efficacy in terms of accommodating effectively.
Developing a proper view of the nature of science (NOS) amongst teachers and students has been the goal of science education for decades. This article discusses an innovative activity designed for training preservice science teachers on NOS. We endorse an approach according to which several aspects of NOS can be explicitly discussed and explained. This activity is an extended version of a tangram activity introduced by Choi (2004). Aside from introducing NOS elements covered by Choi, our tangram activity also introduces the following elements: (1) theories are valid products of science, (2) the role of subjectivity and bias in science, (3) the importance of scientific community in science, (4) prediction is part of science, and (5) creativity and imagination are important in science. The activity can be used decontextualized (i.e., as a stand-alone lesson) in science methods classes, but it also has high potential to be contextualized within content related to the history of science. In this article, we provide procedures for using an analogy activity (the tangram activity) and explain how to connect each part to NOS elements. This activity was tested successfully in several science methods courses, a NOS course, and two professional development workshops.
This article describes a design partnership with university faculty and informal environmental educators that developed a desktop virtual-reality field trip (dVFT) to learn about the environmental changes that occurred during the past two centuries because of a zinc smelting plant operation in the Lehigh River watershed. Our watershed is historically significant because it was a driving force of the industrial revolution in the United States during the 19th century. We provide background on place-based learning and the affordances that virtual reality (VR) and VR field trips can provide for learning. We describe our design and development approach and present the resulting dVFT. We discuss how the dVFT was used in an environmental education course during a global pandemic. The course included preservice and inservice secondary science teachers. The students experienced both immersion (i.e., sensory fidelity) and presence (i.e., subjective psychological response) when using the dVFT. The dVFT served two main purposes in the course. First, it provided students who were unable to attend the optional field trip with a meaningful experience to learn about an important environmental issue and remediation process. Second, the dVFT served as a valuable foundational learning activity for students to familiarize themselves with the actual field site prior to going to the physical site location. Implications for science teacher educators interested in developing a dVFT are discussed.