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Engineering Childhood: Knowledge Transmission Through Parenting

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Starting Them Early

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.501.1 - 23.501.7



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Paper Authors


Brianna L Dorie Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dorie is a doctoral candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses upon how young children engage in and learn about engineering in informal environments, especially through the use of media.

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Monica E Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Monica Cardella is an assistant professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is also the director of Informal Learning Environments Research for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Learning and Research (INSPIRE). She conducts research on undergraduate engineering students' design and mathematical thinking in formal and informal contexts in addition to research on how children develop engineering thinking in informal learning environments.

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Engineering Childhood: Knowledge Transmission Through Parenting Parents are the front line when it comes to the education and development of theirchildren, and are important agents in the educational achievement of their child in aformal setting (Yun et al, 2010; Catsambis, 1995; Fan & Chen, 2001; Seyfried & Chung,2003). Parents purchase toys, read books, take children to museums, and interact withtheir child on a daily basis. Particular background with a subject, such as science orengineering, can affect the parent’s strategies for educating their children and subsequentunderstanding of main concepts (Yun et al., 2010). However, many adults and childrenalike have a minimal understanding of engineering (NRC, 2009). Additionally, parents have a major influence on a child’s career choice, especiallythose in non-dominant groups (Taylor et al., 2003; Dryler, 1998). A survey ofundergraduate engineering students found that women were significantly more likely tohave a parent who is an engineer and to have previously studied engineering beforecollege (Mannon & Schreuders, 2007). Engineering parents may pass on engineering-related knowledge, interests and aspirations to their progeny. The purpose of this study isto determine what engineering parents are doing to educate their children aboutengineering. In this study, interviews of 24 parents who self-identified as having an engineeringbackgrounds and doing something to help their children learn about engineering wereanalyzed in order to begin to capture a variety of approaches that parents have taken inorder to shape their children’s exposure to engineering. Participants were recruited inorder to capture breadth in terms of engineering experiences. Participants’ backgroundswere from a diverse assortment of industry (n = 8), faculty (n = 14), and students (n =2),participating in twenty different engineering disciplines. The open-ended interviewsincluded parents’ background, interactions with children (content, strategies andreactions), parenting ideology, and parent’s own understanding of engineering. Parents primarily reported teaching their children engineering through inquiry basedlearning (Q&A sessions, museum exhibits) and interactions with media (books,computers, television, and toys). While many parents stated that they don’t explicitlyteach engineering concepts, several mentioned that they are explicitly encouraging aspecific way of thinking about problem solving. The findings from this study provide opportunities for future research as well aseducational interventions. First, we are using these findings as a baseline for researchinvestigating differences between parents with and without an engineering background.In the future, we can also use these finding to inform the development of K-12 classroomactivities. Finally, we are already using the findings to create resources for parents.

Dorie, B. L., & Cardella, M. E. (2013, June), Engineering Childhood: Knowledge Transmission Through Parenting Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19515

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