Engineering Design as Integration for High School Physics Learning: An Alternative Instructional Model

  • shaobo huang South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
  • Joel Alejandro Mejia Freshman Engineering Department, West Virginia University
  • Kurt Becker
  • Andrew Neilson
Keywords: high school physics, engineering design, misconception


Improving high school physics teaching and learning is important to the long term success of STEM education. A better understanding of engineering and its relationship to society is critical for all Americans even though few will pursue engineering as a career (National Academy of Engineering, 2008). Engineering employs principles of math and science to create technologies, thus, serving as a STEM integrator. Increasing our national STEM literacy and workforce readiness includes intensifying and diversifying student participation in the STEM learning experiences. This paper aims to improve the physics learning and teaching environment for high school students through their understanding of engineering design. Efforts are currently in place to develop an understanding of engineering among high school students through formal and informal educational experiences. Using engineering design as an integrator to teach physics will assist in student understanding of difficult physics concepts. This paper provides research into: 1) features of current curriculum design for high school physics, 2) the challenges and deficiencies teachers and students have in physics, and 3) guidance on integrating engineering design in physics classes. Research was conducted to identify the most difficult concept to teach and learn in high school physics through national surveys. The results shed light on how to teach physics concepts by integrating engineering and science as proposed in the NAEP TEL Framework (National Assessment Governing Board [NAGB], 2012). The current literature in physics education, Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework for the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress, and a national survey to high school physics teachers was employed as guidance in providing a method to improve high school physics teaching and learning.