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Assessing Elementary School Students' Conceptions Of Engineering And Technology

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Measuring Perceptions of Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.227.1 - 10.227.10



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Paper Authors

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Cathy P. Lachapelle

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Anna Lindgren-Streicher

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As our society becomes increasingly dependent on engineering and technology, it is more important than ever that our citizens are technologically literate [1]. There are many possible ways to develop technological literacy—one of the most wide-reaching is through K-12 schools. The Museum of Science, Boston is working to create curricular materials and professional development for K-12 students and teachers. However, previous research in science has evinced that responsible curriculum development draws upon and is shaped by students’ conceptions and misconceptions [2]. While the field of science education research has generated (and continues to develop) a strong base of research about students’ conceptions for educators, developers, and scholars to reference, similar efforts in technology and engineering education research are nascent. A literature review surfaced only a handful of relevant studies. There have been few studies that probe students’ understanding of design [3], and students’ conceptions of strength of materials and stability [4]. The International Technology Education Association (ITEA) has conducted one study of adults’ thinking about technology and engineering [5]. Clearly, much more research is needed in this area to guide the field [4-6]. One of stumbling blocks that has been identified is that scholars have not yet come to consensus on the specific concepts and process understandings that comprise technological literacy [7]. More clarification at the national, state, district, or project level could provide some guidelines. However, we have chosen to begin to investigate conceptions at a much more basic level; specifically, what do students think engineering and technology are? One could argue that for any person to be technologically literate, s/he must first have some idea of what engineering and technology are. Though they are surrounded by the products of engineering in our everyday lives, students and the general public generally don’t understand what engineers do [8-10]. A dearth of information currently exists that probes students’ understandings of these fundamental concepts. This paper reports the creation of one instrument developed to assess these concepts in students. It presents some statistical data from 504 students who have completed the survey and draws some preliminary conclusions about what the average child thinks engineering and technology are. It concludes with some further uses for the instrument and next steps for the research agenda.

Cunningham, C., & Lachapelle, C. P., & Lindgren-Streicher, A. (2005, June), Assessing Elementary School Students' Conceptions Of Engineering And Technology Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14836

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