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Informal Pathways to Engineering: Middle-School-Aged Homeschool Students’ Experiences with Engineering (Fundamental)

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Fundamental: Home, Parents, and Other Out-of-School Issues Related to K-12 and Pre-college Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.961.1 - 26.961.23



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Paper Authors


Tamecia R. Jones Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Tamecia Jones is currently a doctoral student in the Engineering Education department at Purdue University with a research focus on K-12 engineering education, assessment, and informal and formal learning environments. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins and Stanford University. Originally trained as a biomedical engineer, she spent years in the middle school classroom, teaching math and science, and consulting with nonprofits, museums, and summer programs.

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Monica E Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Monica E. Cardella is the Director of the INSPIRE Institute for Pre-College Engineering Education and is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Christine Andrews Paulsen Concord Evaluation Group

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Christine Andrews Paulsen is founder of Concord Evaluation Group (CEG) in Massachusetts. Dr. Paulsen holds a Ph.D. in education research, evaluation, and measurement from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been conducting evaluation research since 1990 and, prior to CEG, worked for the Institute for Social Analysis and the American Institutes for Research. Dr. Paulsen routinely directs evaluations of STEM-related projects in informal settings, focusing on learners as well as practitioners. Her main research interest lies in evaluating programs that hold the promise of enhancing the lives of traditionally underserved populations (children, parents, and communities).

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Marisa Wolsky WGBH Educational Foundation

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Marisa Wolsky is an Executive Producer at WGBH Educational Foundation with over 20 years of experience turning STEM content into entertaining and educational media for kids. Ms. Wolsky is the PI and Executive Producer for the NSF-funded environmental science series PLUM LANDING, a PBS KIDS digital project that uses animated webisodes, online games, hands-on science activities, and live-action videos—plus a curious alien named Plum—to connect 6- to 9-year olds to nature, teach them about ecosystems, and get them pumped up about their role as caretakers of the planet. She is also Executive Producer and PI of the NSF-funded series Design Squad—for which she oversees all aspects of the production, translating its engineering content into entertaining across many platforms—and PEEP and the Big Wide World, responsible for managing its production and working closely with the series’ advisors to oversee the implementation of PEEP’s educationally rich preschool science curriculum. Prior to this, she worked on the development and production of many children’s series, including Long Ago & Far Away, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?, Arthur, and ZOOM.

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Informal Pathways to Engineering: Middle-School Aged Homeschool Students’ Experiences with Engineering (Fundamental)  Research shows that self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and personal interest impact thechoices students make regarding academic and career pathways. STEM career pathways forstudents are often dictated by their academic decisions that occur in middle school.In a three-year longitudinal study, 60 middle school students, parents, and their educators in twoU. S. states are being interviewed and surveyed to collect data about decisions to engage inengineering-related activities, opportunities out-of-school, and changes in personal interest. Thisstudy seeks to find the informal, out-of-school opportunities and pathways that middle schoolstudents take to fulfill their interests in engineering or desire to become an engineer. Of the 60students, 10 of them are homeschool students. As the lines between school and out-of-school areless restrictive in the homeschool population, and resources and curricula are decided by parents,the experiences of homeschool students are unique.In this paper, we share the preliminary findings to the following questions: How do informalengineering programs (such as Design Squad) support engineering-related learning over time?What types of children benefit most after exposure to programs like Design Squad? How dohomeschool students experience engineering education? What are the challenges and strategiesfor success? How do homeschool parents’ perceptions regarding preparedness compare toteachers’ perceptions?Preliminary results show that parent educational background (the homeschool educator) impactstheir own self-efficacy as a teacher of STEM, especially engineering. Challenges include findingand implementing appropriate curriculum and becoming involved in extracurricular engineering-related activities normally available to traditionally-schooled children. Success in exposinghomeschool students to engineering can be related to family financial resources, family scheduletime constraints, and geographic proximity to extracurricular activities.This study helps us to remember the homeschool population, which can be overlooked whenconsidering pre-college engineering education. Additionally, it helps us consider ways to supporthomeschooling parents (e.g. by helping them to find quality resources) so that they are able toprovide their children with engineering learning experiences.

Jones, T. R., & Cardella, M. E., & Paulsen, C. A., & Wolsky, M. (2015, June), Informal Pathways to Engineering: Middle-School-Aged Homeschool Students’ Experiences with Engineering (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24298

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