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A Comparison of Swedish and Irish Secondary Students' Conceptions of Engineers and Engineering using the Draw-an-Engineer Test

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jeffrey Buckley KTH Royal Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr Jeffrey Buckley received his PhD from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, in the area of spatial ability and learning in technology education. He is a qualified post-primary teacher of Design and Communication Graphics and Construction Studies. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in engineering education in KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, and Athlone Institute of Technology, Ireland, and is also a member of the Technology Education Research Group (TERG). His main research interest is in how people learn. He is particularly interested in how cognitive abilities such as spatial ability affect students capacity to learn, and how levels of prior knowledge impact on further learning. Jeffrey is also interested in inclusivity in engineering and technology education, particularly in relation to stereotypes and misconceptions that people may have about technical subject areas.

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Lena B. Gumaelius KTH Royal Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr Lena Gumaelius has a background as a researcher in Biotechnology, in which field she still teaches undergraduate students at KTH. (Lena got her Master of Science in chemistry 1993 and her PhD in Environmental Microbiology in 2001.)

In parallel with her research, she worked for several years with development of experiments for students at House of Science. In 2006 Lena became the director of House of Science, which she remained until 2012. House of Science is a university based Science centre with about 40 000 visitors were the goal is to stimulate high school students’ interest for the natural sciences, math and technology. During these years Lena developed her pedagogical skills and competence in the pedagogic field and besides leading the activities she organised pedagogical training for teachers, pupils and university students.

Between 2011 and 2016 Lena was the head of the new Department of Learning at the School of Education and Communication in Engineering Sciences (ECE), KTH. Lena was then responsible for building up a new strong research environment in engineering and technology education, K-12 to university level.

2016-2017 Lena was the Dean at the ECE school at KTH.
As this School was merged with another School in 2018, from January 2018 Lena has a research position as an Associate professor at the ITM school at KTH.

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Tomás Hyland University of Limerick Orcid 16x16

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Tomás is currently hired as a teaching assistant on the initial technology teacher education programmes where he has worked since graduation. He is currently undertaking a PhD in the School of Engineering at the University of Limerick under the supervision of Dr Seamus Gordon, Dr Niall Seery and Dr Jeffrey Buckley. Tomás’ PhD research focuses on mainly on the areas of learning, cognitive load theory and spatial cognition. Tomás has a particular interest in conducting school based research to gain insight into authentic classroom activity and learning. He is conducting research with both post-primary and university students looking specifically at if having elevated spatial skills reduces the cognitive load associated with learning new fundamental Engineering/Technology concepts.

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Niall Seery Athlone Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Niall Seery is also the Director of the Technology Education Research Group (TERG) and is a Guest Professor in Technology Education at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden.

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Arnold Neville Pears Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) Orcid 16x16

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Arnold Pears received his BSc(Hons) in 1986 and PhD in 1994, both
from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
He occupied positions as lecturer and senior lecturer at La Trobe
University between 1991 and 1998. In 1999 he was appointed as senior lecturer at
Uppsala University, Sweden. He was awarded the Uppsala University Pedagogy
Prize in 2008, and appointed as Associate Professor of Computing
Education Research in May 2011. Roles at Uppsala University
include appointment to the University Academic Senate,
Programme Director for the IT Engineering programme, member
of the selection committee for the Uppsala University Pedgogy prize
and as member of the educational advisory board of the
Faculty of Technology and Natural Sciences.

He has a strong interest in teaching and
learning research in computer science and engineering, and leads the UpCERG
research group in computing and engineering education research at Uppsala University.
He has published more than 40 articles in the area internationally,
and is well known as a computing education
researcher through his professional activities in the ACM, and IEEE.
In the IEEE he serves as a member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Computer
Society, where he is active in the Education Activities Board, serving also on
the steering committee of the Frontiers in Education Conference and as Chair of
the newly established Special Technical Community (STC) for Education.
In addition he is a Director of CeTUSS (The Swedish National Center for
Pedagogical Development of Technology Education in a Societal and
Student Oriented Context, and the IEEE Education Society Nordic
He as a reviewer for a number of major journals and conferences, including
the Computer Science Education Journal (Taylor and Francis),
and Koli Calling International Computer Science Education conferences.

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Women are significantly underrepresented in engineering and engineering related disciplines. One area where this is clearly illustrated is in the percentage of females enrolled in higher education engineering courses. The 2016 data on enrolment by field from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that the maximum percentage of female enrolment in “engineering and engineering trades” education at Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral level in OECD countries is 28.33% in Sweden. As this form of education is likely to lead to a career in an engineering related field, there is a clear need to understand the factors which influence female students’ decisions to enroll in higher education engineering courses.

There are many influences on students’ choices to pursue specific career paths. For example, how students conceive a particular discipline or career will influence this decision, as what they believe it to involve will likely affect their interest in engaging with it. In engineering, students often have misconceptions regarding what it means to be an engineer and the Draw-an-Engineer Test (DAET) has frequently been used to investigate these misconceptions.

Studies using DAET have found that young students typically conceive engineers to be male, with the majority of male students typically representing engineers as male, but, with female students drawing more frequent but still relatively small proportions of female engineers. However, at least with the original “Draw a” instrument, the Draw-a-Scientist Test (DAST), children’s drawings of scientists have been found to be becoming more gender diverse over time.

In this study, the DAET is used in a comparative study between Sweden and Ireland. These countries were selected as according to the 2016 OECD data on higher education enrolment, Sweden has the highest representation of female engagement with engineering in higher level education (28.33%), while Ireland has one of the lowest (14.13%). The study cohort (ntotal = 513; nIreland = 302; nSweden = 211) in the context of both countries includes students who are approximately 15 years old. This age is of cultural significance in both countries as students are at a juncture in second level education where they must make a choice on what they will study at upper secondary level, which will consequently have an impact on their decision on what to study should they choose to progress to higher level education. Results are presented in relation to participants engineering stereotypes in terms of gender and the nature of engineering activities, and also in terms of their level of interest in engineering. Importantly, the results indicate that in order to understanding engineering stereotypes and young people’s interest in becoming an engineer, the complex relationship between a student’s gender, cultural context, and conception of engineering must be considered.

Buckley, J., & Gumaelius, L. B., & Hyland, T., & Seery, N., & Pears, A. N. (2019, June), A Comparison of Swedish and Irish Secondary Students' Conceptions of Engineers and Engineering using the Draw-an-Engineer Test Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31946

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