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Analyzing Subject-Produced Drawings: The use of the Draw an Engineer Assessment in Context

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

K-12 Students and Teachers

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.208.1 - 22.208.25

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Paper Authors


Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh Arizona State University

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Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh is Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He has bachelors and masters degrees in Computer Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. His research interests include educational research methods, communication of research, and k-16+ engineering education. Ganesh’s research is largely focused on studying k-12 curricula, and teaching-learning processes in both the formal and informal settings. He is principal investigator of the Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers project, Learning through Engineering Design and Practice (2007 - 2011), a National Science Foundation Award # 0737616 from the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings. This project is aimed at designing, implementing, and systematically studying the impact of a middle-school engineering education program.

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Analyzing Subject-Produced Drawings: The use of the Draw an Engineer Assessment in ContextAbstractSubject-produced drawings as an education research method have the potential, when used withcare and rigor, to serve as useful descriptive and analytical tools. As a descriptive tool, subject-produced drawings can be used to elicit individuals’ understandings of a specific idea (e.g., anengineer at work) or construct (e.g., engineers). As an analytical tool, subject-produced drawingscan be used to compare an individual’s own changes over time (e.g., perceptions of an engineerat work before, during, and after an engineering education intervention). While the subject-produced drawings offer rich descriptive data, there are related issues with construct validity thatwill persist; as data collected using drawings will be interpreted through the human perceptionsof the researcher. It is not fully possible to discern the author’s intent without speaking with theauthor of the drawing. When drawings are analyzed in context along with other sources of datasuch as author descriptions of the drawing or image elicitation interviews, the validity of theinferences that one can make from such data is enhanced, as the inferences will not rely solely onthe researchers’ interpretations. Ultimately, what matters is whether one has the evidence towarrant claims. Subject-produced drawings offer an important tool for researchers as they havethe following qualities: they can be projective, they permit expression of feeling and imagery,they allow for defining and redefining shared attitudes held by society, and they can be analyzedusing psychological, sociological and cultural lenses with attention to the phenomena or conceptsunder study.The full paper will describe the data analysis of children’s drawings of an engineer at work viathe draw an engineer assessment that was used pre, during, and post program. The interventioninvolved an engineering education after-school program where engineers and undergraduateengineering students interacted with middle school participants (n=176).To make sense of the drawings a data analysis team of three researchers engaged in what Straussand Corbin (1998) termed open and axial coding. Open coding began with three broadtheoretical categories: Gender of the engineer, Engineers in action, and Engineers use tools.Drawings were labeled with likely concepts suggested by the context in which the drawing waslocated, including the accompanying written responses describing the drawing. Memosdescribing the research team’s thoughts about key elements that were identified in the drawingswere prepared. The entire data corpus was reviewed in this manner. We then compared thedrawings, our labels, and memos to search for crosscutting concepts. This process is whatStrauss and Corbin termed axial coding (1998, pp. 123-142).Analysis of post-program drawings indicated a shift from students’ pre-program understandingsthat included representations of concepts such as engineers work with engines, engineers build,and engineers repair technical devices to emerging understandings that included representationsof concepts such as engineers go to college, engineers use the engineering design process,engineers design products we need, engineers invent new devices to help people, engineers findways to improve things we use everyday, and engineers can be female, and engineers can bemale.

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