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Boys and Girls Engineering Identity Development in Early Elementary

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Impacts on K-12 Student Identity, Career Choice, and Perceptions of Engineers

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.235.1 - 24.235.8



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Paper Authors


Kerrie A Douglas Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Anna Douglas is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Purdue University's Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning. She received her B.A. in Psychology, M.S. Ed. in School Counseling, and her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, with an emphasis on Research Methods and Measurement from Purdue University. Her research focuses on assessment and evaluation in engineering education.

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Brittany Paige Mihalec-Adkins


Heidi A. Diefes-Dux Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux is a Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Food Science from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Food Process Engineering from the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. She is a member of Purdue’s Teaching Academy. Since 1999, she has been a faculty member within the First-Year Engineering Program, teaching and guiding the design of one of the required first-year engineering courses that engages students in open-ended problem solving and design. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and assessment of model-eliciting activities with authentic engineering contexts. She is currently the Director of Teacher Professional Development for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) and a member of the educational team for the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN).

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Boys and Girls Engineering Identity Development in Early Elementary Before and After Hands-On Engineering Learning Classroom Experiences (Research to practice)In order to work towards a more diversified engineering workforce in the U.S., it is imperativethat all children have opportunities to engage in rewarding experiences with engineeringprojects. In particular, it is important that children have meaningful experiences at early ages,before they have prematurely ruled out engineering as a career. To learn more about whenfemales begin to select out of engineering opportunities more frequently than their male peers,there is a need for research which examines gender differences in engineering identitydevelopment both prior to and after meaningful learning experiences with engineering.This research was conducted as part of a larger project which provided teacher professionaldevelopment to elementary teachers for the purpose of integrating engineering activities into 2nd,3rd, and 4th grade classroom lessons. Teachers taught lessons to introduce engineering andtechnology to their students, including one unit from the Engineering is Elementary curriculumdesigned by the Boston Museum of Science (Cunningham, 2009). This study looked at 818 (395male, 423 female) 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students in their first year of exposure to engineering inthe classroom. Students were given the Engineering Identity Development Scale (EIDS) (Authoret al., 2012) as pre and post assessments to measure their knowledge about engineering in abroad sense and their aspirations toward engineering. Initial differences in knowledge aboutengineering and aspirations towards engineering between genders were analyzed usingmultivariate analyses of variance. Changes between groups in students’ engineering identitydevelopment after experiencing engineering lessons were analyzed through multivariate analysisof covariance.Findings indicate that students in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade levels, there are no significantdifferences between boys’ and girls’ factor of the engineering career identity, before or after theengineering hands-on learning experiences, F(1,235) = 0.426, p > 0.05. Both boys and girlssignificantly increased in their scores on the engineering career identity. Student differences ateach grade level were analyzed to determine whether these findings were also true for individualgrades. These results confirmed the overall findings that on average, boys and girls did notsignificantly differ from one another in their engineering career identity development before orafter engineering learning experiences.To see an increase in the diversity of those who pursue and are successful in engineering, acontinuum of opportunities in K-12 education is needed to nourish young children’s interest andknowledge. Future research is needed to examine grades 5, 6, and 7 to gain a betterunderstanding of the impact that continued experiences with engineering have on females’attitudes about whether they are the type of person that could be an engineer.

Douglas, K. A., & Mihalec-Adkins, B. P., & Diefes-Dux, H. A. (2014, June), Boys and Girls Engineering Identity Development in Early Elementary Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20126

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