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New Dual-Degree Program Pairs Teaching and Engineering

Engineering has been creeping its way into more K-12 schools for some time now. The Next Generation Science Standards, which 15 states and the District of Columbia have adopted in the last two years, have a significant focus on engineering design. And more schools are adopting programs and curricula that put engineering at the center of instruction. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as "the nation's report card," has even designed a new test to measure students' engineering literacy.

But few K-12 teachers have a background in engineering, and even science-specific teacher-preparation programs haven't traditionally done much with the topic.

Last week, the University of Virginia announced a new five-year program that will award graduates both a bachelor's degree in engineering and a master's in teaching. 

Starting now, UVA engineering students will have the option to apply to the Curry Education School during their second year of study, and then take classes in both schools for years 3, 4, and 5.

Jennifer Chiu, an assistant professor of instructional technology and STEM education at Curry, said the partnership will fill a gap because currently even science teachers lack engineering training. "Our science teachers are trained in science and have degrees in science and now we're throwing at them you need to teach engineering as well," she said. "It's not a surprise at all they don't have a great understanding of what engineering is and how to incorporate it into their instruction."

Just a handful of students have enrolled in the dual-degree program so far, but Chiu said she's hopeful more will jump in once they know about the option.

Virginia has not adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. But even so, Chiu said, "there's a big push in Virginia around incorporating engineering experience [in K-12] because of the impact on STEM careers." In fact, several years from now, she said, Virginia teachers may be able to get a state license in engineering education. 

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