Although improving teaching and learning in this nascent area is important, the committee is even more interested in seeing engineering education become a catalyst for improved learning in the other STEM subjects. Despite all of the concerns by policy makers, educators, and people in industry about the quality of U.S. K–12 STEM education, the role of technology education and engineering education have hardly been mentioned. In fact, the STEM acronym has become shorthand for science and mathematics education only, and even these subjects typically are treated as separate entities.
Finding 1. As STEM education is currently structured and implemented, it does not reflect the natural interconnectedness of the four STEM components in the real world of research and technology development.2
The committee believes that the disconnects between STEM subjects has not only impeded efforts to stimulate student interest and improve performance in science and mathematics, but has also inhibited the development of technological and scientific literacy, which are essential to informed citizens in the twenty-first century.
Finding 2. There is considerable potential value, related to student motivation and achievement, in increasing the presence of technology and, especially, engineering in STEM education in the United States in ways that address the current lack of integration in STEM teaching and learning.
In the rest of this chapter, we present the committee’s recommendations and remaining findings. Because of the numerous unanswered questions about K–12 engineering education, the findings outnumber the recommendations, which are largely focused on research. We turn our attention first to “defining” engineering in the context of K–12 education. Next we address the scope, nature, and impacts of current efforts to teach engineering to pre-college students in the United States. The following section deals with policy and program issues associated with K–12 engineering education. The chapter concludes with a discussion of fully integrated STEM education.