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Methodology for Studying Gendered Differences among Secondary Students' Perceptions of Engineering

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session - Strategies Beyond the Classroom to Tackle Gender Issues

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jason Bazylak University of Toronto

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Professor Bazylak brings his engineering, education, and design experience to his role at the University of Toronto. His primary duty is coordinating and teaching an award winning first year design and communications course (Engineering Strategies and Practice). As well he conducts action-based research into improving the learning experience of undergraduate engineering students and increasing diversity in the profession, particularly women and Aboriginals (Native Americans). Professor Bazylak started his career as a manufacturing engineer in a new product introduction division of a large telecommunication manufacturer. He returned to academia joining the University of Victoria first as an engineering co-operative education coordinator and then as an engineer-in-residence. He joined the University of Toronto as a teaching focused professor where he is heavily involved in design education and diversity studies.

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Ruth A Childs University of Toronto Orcid 16x16

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Ruth Childs is an associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at the University of Toronto and a past president of the Canadian Educational Researchers’ Association. She teaches courses in research design and measurement theory and has conducted many studies investigating the design and equity of large-scale assessments, admissions processes, and other evaluation systems. Her most recent large research projects investigated how elementary students deal with uncertainty when answering multiple-choice questions and what Ontario's universities are doing to improve access for underrepresented groups.

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Aimy Bazylak University of Toronto

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Prof. Aimy Bazylak is an Associate Professor in Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. She is the Tier II Canada Research Chair in Thermofluidics for Clean Energy and the Director of the University of Toronto Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE). In 2008, she received the inaugural Bullitt Environmental Fellowship for leadership in the environmental field. She was awarded the I.W. Smith Award for Outstanding achievement in creative mechanical engineering within 10 years of graduation (2011) and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Early Researcher Award (2012). She is the Director of the Thermofluids for Energy and Advanced Materials (TEAM) Laboratory working in fuel cells, electrolyzers, and subsurface geology. In 2014 she became a Fellow of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering and was most recently awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers.

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Females are under-represented in the engineering profession and engineering education programs. Within the literature, suggested reasons for this under-representation are numerous and include fewer female faculty / role models, genetic disposition, gender discrimination, gendered workplaces and many more. The goal of this study is to use a mixed methods approach to determine if there are gendered differences in high school students’ perceptions of the engineering profession. If differences are discovered then how do these differences impact students’ career decision making process? Perceptions will be measured on: What is engineering?, What qualifications are needed to study engineering?, Do I meet those qualifications?, and What will it be like to work as an engineer? Perceptions will also be measured for specific disciplines in hopes of explaining large differences in female enrollment between chemical engineering (high female enrollment) and mechanical engineering (low female enrollment). Additional information will be collected to investigate the relationship of perceptions to previous exposure to engineers and engineering. Data will be collected during a series of in-class engineering promotion workshops given by the researchers. All high school student workshop attendees will be asked to complete a survey at the beginning of the workshop. The survey contains both multiple choice questions (to be automatically aggregated using scanning software) and open ended response questions (to be manually coded). The multiple choice answers will be numerically analyzed for trends, while a thematic analysis will be conducted on the written answers. If this study identifies that female high school students have distinctly different perceptions and priorities than their male counterparts, then conceivably some engineering outreach programs could be designed to better recruit the next generation of female engineers.

Bazylak, J., & Childs, R. A., & Bazylak, A. (2016, June), Methodology for Studying Gendered Differences among Secondary Students' Perceptions of Engineering Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25712

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