The Enrichment Experiences in Engineering (E3) Summer teacher program: Analysis of post-program surveys
Since 2002, the Enrichment Experiences in Engineering (E3) summer teacher program has provided engineering research opportunities to Texas public high school teachers. Through funding by the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program, E3 has hosted a total of 150 teachers. Most of the teachers have come from schools with high minority student populations (average 83% Hispanic and/or African American; average 69% economically-disadvantaged). Although the program has evolved over the years due to ongoing formative evaluation efforts, the E 3 program goal "to involve teachers in engineering research" has remained the same as have the three core objectives: (1) provide engineering research experiences and enhance understanding of the nature of engineering; (2) scaffold teacher development of inquiry-based engineering classroom activities; and (3) improve teacher (and indirectly their students) knowledge about careers in engineering. The E3 program is designed to bring high school science and mathematics teachers to the Texas A&M University campus for a four-week summer residential experience where the teachers are mentored by engineering faculty. During the program, teachers are involved in: (1) hands-on participation with current engineering research, (2) activities to broaden their awareness of engineering career opportunities for their students, and (3) development of an engineering project for implementation in their high school classroom. Although the E3 program is not a research project, the E3 program's goal and core objectives can be linked to anticipated outcomes. As part of the program's formative and summative evaluation, anonymous online surveys were administered to participants in two E3 summer programs using the pre- and post-program survey format, and participants were asked to respond to survey statements using a Likert-type scale of responses. The E3 leadership team noted inconsistencies in some of the survey results with the teachers' written (and verbal) comments; therefore the team investigated the apparent contradictions. Possible explanations included (a) pre-program survey response overestimation and concomitant response shift bias for several of the survey questions, and/or (b) teachers' belief that something is true without a factual basis for that belief. Although there were several design approaches to consider, the E3 team determined that the retrospective post-then-pre survey design was the best fit for the program and therefore restructured the affected questions for subsequent post-program surveys. As such, the revised surveys were administered to participants in the subsequent E3 summer programs. Major survey findings indicated that the E3 participants experienced substantial changes in the following areas: (1) improved understanding of the engineering discipline; (2) heightened awareness of the breadth of engineering careers; and (3) greater familiarity regarding important skills and attributes to be a successful engineer. As a "lessons learned" note to administrators of teacher research experience programs: When selecting an experimental design for participant surveys, program administrators should investigate the options, weigh the advantages and disadvantages, and then select the option that best fits the needs and constraints of their program. American Society for Engineering Education, 2014.