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An Engineering Tale: Using Storybooks to Analyze Parent–Child Conversations About Engineering (Fundamental)

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Fundamental: Home, Parents, and Other Out-of-School Issues Related to K-12 and Pre-college Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.183.1 - 26.183.7



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Paper Authors


Brianna L Dorie Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Dorie is a recent graduate of Engineering Education and Ecological Science & Engineering at Purdue University, having previously earned her M.S. from University of Arizona in Environmental Engineering, and B.A. in Civil Engineering from University of Portland. Her research centers on informal environments at the precollege level – specifically at the interface between artifacts (books, television, toys, etc.) and engineering learning. Of particular interest is how parents’ actions can engage children in engineering.

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Monica E Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Monica E. Cardella is the Director of the INSPIRE Institute for Pre-College Engineering Education and is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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An Engineering Tale: Using storybooks to analyze parent-child conversations about engineering (Fundamental)Envisioning a larger workforce of engineers, with broad participation from a diverse setof workers, is one of the central concerns of engineering education research. While manycurrent K-12 programs focus on engineering thinking and design, there is still a need topromote aspiration and understanding of engineering as an occupation, especially in out-of-school environments where children spend a majority of their time. Career aspirationsand expectations of children have already started to develop prior to entering formalschooling. Several studies has shown that parents play a significant role in thedevelopment of occupational awareness in their children, but the process by which thisoccurs is not well understood. In engineering and other fields it is common for children tofollow in the career footsteps of their parents in a phenomenon called occupationalinheritance. It is hypothesized that parents socialize their children through the socialnorms, personal knowledge, attitudes and beliefs that they share through everydayactivity.This study investigated the strategies that engineering parents conduct when reading astory about engineering to their children. Conversation analysis was used to distinguishthe knowledge, attitudes and beliefs that were shared during the interaction. Twenty-fourparticipants that self-identified as engineers (through a degree conferred or jobassociation or other) video-recorded themselves in their own home, reading a providedstorybook to their young children, aged 3 to 5 years. The storybook centered on two kidson a mission to deliver an odd shaped package to an engineer. Along the way they ponderwho an engineer is, what they do, and where they work before eventually meeting upwith a team of engineers. The storybook also contained imagery of potentialmisconceptions (e.g. only work on trains, similarity to mechanics) as well as messagesfrom “Changing the Conversation” (e.g. engineers make the world a better place).Several of the results told an interesting tale: while engineering parents are expected tohave a high degree of understanding about their field, they had difficulty in expressingoccupational knowledge, and in some cases even had difficulty correctingmisconceptions that the child held. Also, several parents expressed astonishment whentheir child did not recognize that they too were engineers. Engineering parents alsoprovided additional engineering knowledge during the storybook reading.The results of this study will be used to develop materials to inform parents (as well asthe general public) of strategies with which to engage conversations about engineering,and can be extended to other non-familiar occupations as well.

Dorie, B. L., & Cardella, M. E. (2015, June), An Engineering Tale: Using Storybooks to Analyze Parent–Child Conversations About Engineering (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23522

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