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GK-12 Engineering Fellows Change Student Perceptions; Science Fellows, Not So Much

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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

Middle School Engineering Programs, Curriculum, and Evaluation

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.747.1 - 22.747.18



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Paper Authors


Jed S. Lyons University of South Carolina

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Jed Lyons is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Faculty Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of South Carolina. His passion is engaging K-12 students, undergraduates, graduate students and faculty in inquiry- and design-oriented learning activities.

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GK-12 Engineering Fellows Improved Student Perceptions: Science Fellows, Not So MuchThe broad objective of this research is to contribute to our understanding of middle schoolstudent attitudes towards engineering and science. Improving student awareness of whatengineering and science are all about contributes to technological literacy among the generalpublic and also helps students make informed career path decisions. To capture student attitudes,two surveys were designed. The first assessed student attitudes towards engineering while thesecond assessed attitudes towards science. Both surveys had nineteen Likert scale questions andone open ended question. Individual items were identical on both surveys, except engineers werethe subject of one and scientists the subject of the other. For example, on the engineer survey,students were asked to rate their agreement with the statement “Engineers make people’s livesbetter.” The parallel statement on the scientist survey was “Scientists make people’s livesbetter.” The surveys were designed and vetted by faculty members in middle school scienceeducation and mechanical engineering, and drew from literature and previous work in this area.Over 1200 sixth, seventh and eight grade students who attended public schools in theSoutheastern United States were involved in this study. Sixty percent of students were given theengineering survey and 40% the scientist survey. This was a sample of convenience. Surveyswere administered to students in classrooms taking part in a NSF-funded Graduate TeachingFellows in K-12 Education program. In this program graduate students in engineering or sciencework one-two days a week in middle school science classrooms, enhancing science educationthrough inquiry and design projects that support state education standards. Students inclassrooms with engineering graduate students were given the engineer survey; students inclassrooms with science graduate students were given the scientist survey. In both cases, pre-surveys were administered to the middle school students before the graduate student’s first visitto the classroom. Post-surveys were administered at the end of the school year. Approximately1000 pre-post surveys could be matched for analysis in this study.Comparison of the pre-post survey results helps investigate the effects of the graduate student’sefforts. For example, one-way ANOVAs for the pre-post scores were conducted to determine ifthe type of Fellow in the classroom made an impact on students’ perceptions. The findingssuggest that students with engineering Fellows showed a statistically significant change in theirperception regarding engineers at the end of the school year compared to their attitudes at thebeginning of the school year. Students with science Fellows did not exhibit a significant changein their perceptions regarding scientists from the pre to the post survey. Two items askedstudents to select the statement that best reflects their feelings or “affection” for the engineeringand science disciplines. There was a change from 63 percent to 72 percent in the number ofstudents who either “love” or “like” engineering from the pre- to post-survey. Approximately 92percent of the students indicated on the pre-study survey that they “loved” or “liked” science.However, only 80 percent of the students made the same observation on the post-survey. Thispaper will discuss these differences, other differences, and similarities in how the middle schoolstudents reacted to their interactions with engineering and science GK-12 Fellows.

Lyons, J. S. (2011, June), GK-12 Engineering Fellows Change Student Perceptions; Science Fellows, Not So Much Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18028

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