Taking Professional Development From 2D to 3D: Design-Based Learning, 2D Modeling, and 3D Fabrication for Authentic Standards-Aligned Lesson Plans

Main Article Content

Darran R. Cairns
Reagan Curtis
Konstantinos A. Sierros
Johnna J. Bolyard


There is currently significant interest in 3D fabrication in middle school classrooms. At its best 3D printing can be utilized in authentic design projects that integrate math, science, and technology, which facilitate deep learning by students. In essence, students are able to tinker in a virtual world using 3D design software and then tinker in the real world using printed parts. We describe a professional development activity we designed to enable middle school teachers who had taken part in a three-year Math Science Partnership program to authentically integrate 3D printing into design-based lessons. We include some examples of successful design-based lesson plans.

Article Details



Acher, A., Arcà, M., & Sanmartí, N. (2007). Modeling as a teaching learning process for understanding materials: A case study in primary education. Science Education, 91(3), 398–418.

Boaler, J. (2008). Promoting ‘relational equity’ and high mathematics achievement through an innovative mixed ability approach. British Educational Research Journal, 34(2), 167–194.

Bolyard, J., & Moyer-Packenham, P. S. (2008). A review of the literature on mathematics and science teacher quality. Peabody Journal of Education, 83(4), 509–535.

Boud, D., & Feletti, G. (1997). The challenge of problem-based learning (2nd ed.). London: Kogan Page.

Brown, Q., & Burge, J. D. (2014, June). MOTIVATE: Bringing out the fun with 3-D printing and e-textiles for middle- and high-school girls. Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/22848

Buhler, A. G., Gonzalez, S., Bennett, D. B., & Winick, E. R. (2015, June). 3D printing for middle school outreach: A collaboration between the science library and the society of women engineers. Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. https://doi.org/10.18260/p.23353

Bush, S. B., Albanese, J., Karp, K. S., & Karp, M. (2017). An architecture design project: Building understanding seventh grade students investigate area, surface area, volume, proportional thinking, number sense, and technology. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 23(3), 162–169.

Center for Educational Policy (CEP). (2007). Choice, changes, and challenges: Curriculum and instruction in the NCLB era. Washington, DC: CEP.

Chang, S., & Chiu, M. (2005). The development of authentic assessments to investigate ninth graders’ scientific literacy: In the case of scientific cognition concerning the concepts of chemistry and physics. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 3(1), 117–140.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (2009). Inquiry as stance: Practitioner research for the next generation. New York: Teachers College Press.

Cohen, E. G., Lotan, R. A., Scarloss, B. A., & Arellano, A. R. (1999). Complex instruction: Equity in cooperative learning classrooms. Theory into Practice, 38(2), 80–86.

Common Core State Standards Initiative (2011). Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. http://www.next-genscience.org/sites/ngss/files/NGSS%20Combined%20 Topics%2011.8.13.pdf

Curtis, R., Bolyard, J., Cairns, D., Loomis, D. L., Mathew, S., & Watts, K. L. (2017a). Building middle school teacher mathematics and science content knowledge through engineering design. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education 2017 Annual Conference and Exposition.

Curtis, R., Bolyard, J., Cairns, D., Loomis, D. L., Mathew, S., & Watts, K. L. (2017b). Middle school math and science teachers engaged in STEM and literacy through engineering design. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education 2017 Annual Conference and Exposition.

Curtis, R., Bolyard, J., Cairns, D., Mathew, S., Loomis, D. L., & Watts, K. L. (2017c, April). Teachers as learners: A model to build teacher content knowledge through engineering design. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Anto- nio, TX.

Curtis, R., Cairns, D., Bolyard, J., Loomis, D., Watts, K., Mathew, S., & Carte, M. (2016). Integrating STEM and literacy through engineering design: Evaluation of professional development for middle school math and science teachers. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education 2016 Annual Conference and Exposition.

Czerniak, C. (2007). Interdisciplinary science teaching. In S. Abell & N. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 537–559). New York: Routledge.

Desimone, L. M. ( 2009). Improving impact studies of teachers’ professional development: Toward better conceptualizations and measures. Educational Researcher, 38(3), 181–199.

Desimone, L. M., Smith, T. M., & Phillips, K. J. R. (2007). Does policy influence mathematics and science teachers’ participation in professional development? Teachers College Record, 109(5), 1086–1122.

Doerr, H. M., & English, L. D. (2006). Middle grade teachers’ learning through students’ engagement with modeling tasks. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 9(1), 5–32.

Doppelt, Y. (2009). Assessing creative thinking in design-based learning. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 19(1), 55–65.

Doppelt, Y., Mehalik, M. M., Schunn, C. D., Silk, E., & Krysinski,D. (2008). Engagement and achievements: A case study of design-based learning in a science context. Journal of Technology Education, 19(2), 22–39.

Duch, B. J., Groh, S. E., & Allen, D. E. (2001). Why problem-based learning? A case study of institutional change in undergraduate education. In B. Duch, S. Groh, & D. Allen (Eds.), The power of problem-based learning (pp. 3–11). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Dym, C. L., Agogino, A. M., Eris, O., Frey, D. D., & Leifer, L. J. (2005). Engineering design thinking, teaching and learning. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 103–120.

Edelson, D. C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for integrating content and process learning in the design of inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Teaching, 38(3), 355–385.

English, L. D., & Doerr, H. M. (2003). Perspective-taking in middle school mathematical modelling: A teacher case study (v. 2, pp. 357–364). International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. Paper presented at the 27th International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education Conference Held Jointly with the 25th PME-NA Conference. Honolulu, HI, July 13–18, 2003.

Fortus, D., Dershimer, R. C., Krajcik, J., Marx, R. W., & Mamlok-Naaman, R. (2004). Design-based science and student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(10), 1081–1110.

Fortus, D., Krajcik, J., Dershimer, R., Marx, R. W., & Mam- lok-Naaman, R. (2005). Design-based science and real-world problem-solving. Research Report. International Journal of Science Education, 27(7), 855–879.

Hiebert, J., & Grouws, D. A. (2007). The effects of classroom mathematics teaching on students’ learning. In F. K. Lester (Ed.), Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Hiebert, J., Morris, A. K., Berk, D., & Jansen, A. (2007). Preparing teachers to learn from teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 47–61.

Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235–266.

Kolodner, J. L., Camp, P. J., Crismond, D., Fasse, B., Gray, J., Holbrook, J., Puntambekar, S., & Ryan, M. (2003). Problem-based learning meets case-based reasoning in the middle- school science classroom: Putting learning by design(tm) into practice. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(4), 495– 547. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327809JLS1204_2

Ladeji-Osias, J. K., Ziker, C. S., Gilmore, D. C., Gloster, C., Ali, K. S., & Puthumana, P. (2016, June). Increasing STEM engagement in minority middle school boys through making. Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. https://doi.org/10.18260/p.25676

Lee, H. (2004/2005). Developing a professional development program model based on teachers’ needs. Professional Educator, 27(1 & 2), 39–49.

Lesh, R., & Zawojewski, J. (2007). Problem solving and mod- eling. In F. Lester (Ed.), Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 763–804). Information Age.

Lotan, R. A. (2003). Group-worthy tasks. Educational Leadership, 6(6), 72–75.

Magloire, K., & Aly, N. (2013). SciTech kids electronic arts: Using STEAM to engage children all ages and gender. 2013 IEEE Integrated STEM Education Conference (ISEC) (pp. 1–4). Princeton, NJ. https://doi.org/10.1109/ISECon.2013.6525220

Marshall, J. C., Smart, J. B., & Alston, D. M. (2017). Inquiry- based instruction: A possible solution to improving student learning of both science concepts and scientific practices. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 15(5), 777–796.

Mehalik, M. M., Doppelt, Y., & Schunn, C. D. (2008). Mid- dle-school science through design-based learning versus scripted inquiry: Better overall science concept learning and equity gap reduction. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(1), 71–85.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.

National Research Council. (2006). National science education standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy.

National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K–12 science education: Practices, cross-cutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, D.C.: National Academy.

Peck, J., Barton, R., & Klump, J. (2007). Successful math and science professional development. Principal’s Research Review: Supporting the Principal’s Data-Driven Decisions, 2(1), 1–6.

Puntambekar, S., & Kolodner, J. L. (2005). Towards implementing distributed scaffolding: Helping students learn science from design. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(2), 185–217.

Sass, L., & Oxman, R. (2006). Materializing design: The implications of rapid prototyping in digital design. Design Studies, 27(3), 325–355.

Savery, J. R. (2006). Overview of problem-based learning: Definitions and distinctions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(1), 1–13.

Speck, M. (2002). Balanced and year-round professional development: Time and learning. Catalyst for Change, 32(1), 17–19.

Starrett, C., Doman, M., Garrison, C., & Sleigh, M. (2015). Computational bead design: A pilot summer camp in computer aided design and 3D printing for middle school girls. In Proceedings of the 46th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE ‘15) (pp. 587–590). New York, NY: ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/2676723.2677303

Torp, L., & Sage, S. (2002). Problems as possibilities: Problem-based learning for K–16 education (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.