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Integrating Children’s Literature into Occupational Learning about Engineers

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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

Using Web-Resources and Literature to Teach Engineering in P-8

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.899.1 - 22.899.10



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Paper Authors


Brianna L. Dorie Purdue University

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Brianna Dorie is a Ph.D student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She previously received her M.S. in environmental engineering from the University of Arizona, and her B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Portland. For the past three years, Brianna has coordinated the K-5 outreach program through the Women in Engineering Program (WIEP) at Purdue.

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Monica E. Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Monica E. Cardella is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education and is the Co-Director of Assessment Research for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) at Purdue University. Dr. Cardella earned a B.Sc. in Mathematics from the University of Puget Sound and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering at the University of Washington. At the University of Washington she worked with the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the LIFE Center (Learning in Informal and Formal Environments). She was a CASEE Postdoctoral Engineering Education Researcher at the Center for Design Research at Stanford before beginning her appointment at Purdue. Her research interests include: learning in informal and out-of-school time settings, pre-college engineering education, design thinking, mathematical thinking, and assessment research. Dr. Cardella is also the mother of two young children who love books, and so she often finds herself pointing out that there are other types of engineers beyond the ones that drive trains.

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Integrating Children’s Literature into Occupational Learning about Engineers At a very young age, a child has the ability to formulate ideas regarding the occupation ofa lawyer, a nurse or even a doctor. However, studies have shown that most children have limitedinformation regarding engineers, and the lack of knowledge can often perpetuate into adulthood(Cunningham et al., 2005; NAE, 2002). Augur et al. (2005) found that “occupational aspirationsand expectations of children undergo dramatic development changes during the elementaryyears, as well as resisting change in other respects.” This means prior to school education,children have already formed their perception of occupations and that stereotypical attributeshave already been firmly established. Therefore, it is important to introduce occupations, suchas engineering, at a very early age typically before a child enters school. Few studies have looked at the influence of media on the career development of children,though it has been implied as the primary source of occupational learning (Watson & McMahon,2005). Media in the case of children includes the influence of television, toys, and literature(books, newspaper, magazines, etc.). Fictional story books are a compelling medium forintroducing concepts to children at a young age, as it can present new information in an engagingway, increase the stimulation of the imagination and deliver messages. However, while thenotions of doctor, teacher and firefighter are ubiquitous in young literature, there is a lack ofengagement about engineers (Holbrook et al., 2008). A search of children’s literature, using multiple methods, found six books pertaining toengineering, four narrative storybooks, an autobiography, and a tradebook (non-fiction). Thesebooks were analyzed for (1) common misconceptions in engineering, (2) thematic analysis ofmessages, (3) integration of problem-solving ability, and (4) implications for learning in and outof classroom. The misconceptions observed were derived out of the author’s lack of knowledgeregarding engineering, and often were associated with mismatched identities (i.e. an engineeroperates a train). Messages included the application of math and science as tools for engineersand the concept that engineers impact the world around them. Problem solving ability wasevidenced through main character interaction when faced with a challenge. A broader approach looking at children’s narrative stories investigated embeddedengineering themes in popular stories. This examination revealed that many popular children’sstories communicated concepts relevant to engineering, although engineering was not explicitlydescribed or discussed. These concepts included problem solving, multiple alternatives, andspatial conceptualization. Integrating children’s books with either direct engineer references oreven using popular books containing implicit engineering concepts has implications for learningin both formal and informal environments.ReferencesAuger, R.W., Blackhurst, A.E. & Wahl, K.H. (2005). The Development of Elementary-aged Children’s Career Aspirations and Expectations. School Counselor 8(4): 322-329.Cunningham, C.M., Lachapelle, C., and A. Lindgren-Streicher (2005). Assessing Elementary School Students’ Conceptions of Engineering and Technology. In Proceedings: American Society of Engineering Education. Portland, OR.Holbrook, A., Panozza, L., and E. Prieto (2008). Engineering in Children’s Fiction – Not a Good Story? International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education 7: 723-740.NAE (National Academy of Engineering), (2002). Raising public awareness of engineering. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.Watson, M., & McMahon, M., (2005). Children’s Career Development: A Research Review from a Learning Perspective. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67(2): 119-132.

Dorie, B. L., & Cardella, M. E. (2011, June), Integrating Children’s Literature into Occupational Learning about Engineers Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18214

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