June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
22.204.1 - 22.204.20
Analysis of Census Survey of Middle School Students’ Knowledge of Engineers and Engineering in a Large Suburban K-8 School DistrictAbstractThe 2009 National Academy of Engineering’s Committee on K-12 Engineering Educationmade recommendations for enhancing K-12 engineering education, which is in its infancy incomparison to K-12 mathematics education, science education, or technology education. There isa need to understand what middle school students already know about engineers andengineering as new approaches to engineering education in K-12 schools are being designed andimplemented as a way of integrating science and mathematics education with engineering-designchallenges. A local university and a K-8 school district have collaborated to design engineering-design based curricula for in-school implementation in the middle grades. The purpose for thisstudy was to establish a baseline for what middle school students know about engineers andengineering. The K-8 school sub-urban district in the southwestern United States has six middleschools that serve over 5,500 students. A census survey of all sixth, seventh, and eighth gradestudents in this school district was conducted. Responses were collected from 5,585 students.Survey procedures implemented sought out students’ knowledge and awareness of thefollowing:i) what is important to the student in her/his careerii) how well the student knows what people in certain professions do on a day-to-day basis whileat workiii) how well the student thinks certain phrases/words describe engineers or engineeringiv) how appealing or interesting some examples of engineering are to the studentThe survey utilized questions from an online survey developed by the National Academy ofEngineering.Participant demographics are shown in table 1. Respondents indicated that they were morefamiliar with what teachers do day-to-day than engineers at work (see Table 2). Students wereleast familiar with what engineers and accountants do at work. Only 8% of female (vs 16% male)students said that they “knew extremely well” what engineers do at work. Findings haveimplications for experiences that need to be designed and offered to enhance all middle schoolstudents’ knowledge of engineers and engineering.In answer to questions about attributes of engineering, “hard working” (44%), “builds,constructs, or makes things” (37%), and “math and science” (35%), were rated as phrases thatdescribe engineers or the field of engineering “extremely well.” However, “creativity and originalthinking” was rated as an extremely good descriptor of engineering by only 19% of respondents.These findings indicate that the Engineering Habits of Mind (creativity, systems thinking,optimism, collaboration, communication, and ethical considerations) are valuable skills thatstudents need to experience in the middle grades.Students recognized “building cars that run on alternative fuels,” “iPoD”, “solar energy”,“designing video games” as examples of engineering and found “making smaller faster computerprocessors” and “developing new fabrics” as less appealing. Overall, male students indicated amore positive outlook toward engineering as a career choice than female students. The full paperwill present the survey method, data analysis, and results by gender and ethnicity indicatingengineering curricular areas that may be more appealing to certain populations as a means forengagement in engineering-design based learning experiences.Table 1. Grades 6, 7, and 8 participants, N=5585Demographics PercentageGender Female 51% Male 49%Race/Ethnicity White 54% Black 12% American Indian 6% Asian 10% Hispanic 19%Table 2. Familiarity with Professionals, Percentage that rated Profession as “Know Very Well”by GenderProfession Total Female MaleTeacher 38% 33% 44%Doctor 22% 24% 21%Engineer 12% 8% 16%Lawyer 15% 15% 16%Architect 12% 10% 14%Scientist 14% 13% 15%Accountant 10% 10% 11%References National Academy of Engineering. (2009). Engineering in K-12 education: Understandingthe status and improving the prospects. Committee on K-12 Engineering Education: LindaKatehi, Greg Pearson, and Michael Feder (Eds). Washington DC: National Academies Press. National Academy of Engineering. (2008). Changing the conversation: Messages forimproving public understanding of engineering. Committee on public understanding ofengineering messages. Washington DC: National Academies Press.
Thieken, J., & Ganesh, T. G. (2011, June), Analysis of Census Survey of Middle School Students’ Knowledge of Engineers and Engineering in a Large Suburban K-8 School District Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/17485
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