The need for effective teachers is growing while national and state standards are putting ever-increasing demands on teachers and raising expectations for student achievement. Low science and mathematics standardized test scores, particularly in the middle grades, reflect unprepared adolescents, perhaps because of ineffective teaching strategies which result in fewer students seeking STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers.
The researcher examined the use of problem-based learning, or PBL, with computer simulation, an example of which is the National Engineers Week Future City Competition. A model is to investigate the impact of PBL with computer simulation on a generalized use of inquiry-based instruction, use of technology in instruction, integration of science disciplines, and understanding of the nature of middle level learners. Following a review by a panel of experts and a field test, a questionnaire was given to all Ohio teachers who had enrolled and competed in the program on the state level during the 2008-2009 academic year, as well as those teachers competing at the national level.
In addition to demographics and background questions, the teachers were asked to self report on the impact of problem-based learning with computer simulation on frequency of inquiry-based teaching strategies and agreement on technology education,integration of science disciplines, and their understanding of their middle level students. Via sampling of the participants, 15 interviews were conducted after the questionnaire.
Significant areas were found regarding the teachers' Internet access at home and science agreement, number of technology college courses and inquiry frequency, technology professional development and both technology agreement and understanding of middle level learner agreement, past use of problem-based learning with computer simulation and inquiry frequency, gender and inquiry frequency, the teachers' Internet access in the classroom and technology agreement, and, finally, the amount of education and science agreement. High reliability and validity were demonstrated.
Conclusions were drawn to determine the impact on promising instructional practices with inservice teachers and teacher preparation programs, particularly those who teach STEM education. Findings support the proposed model and showed that experience with problem-based learning with computer simulation has a general positive effect on the teachers' instructional patters.