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Parents as Critical Influence: Insights from Five Different Studies

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Choice and Persistence in Engineering Education and Careers

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.968.1 - 24.968.13



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Paper Authors


Brianna L. Dorie Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Brianna Dorie is a PhD Candidate in Engineering Education as well as Ecological Science & Engineering Interdisciplinary Graduate Program at Purdue University. Her primary interests focus on learning engineering in informal environments, sustainability and spatial reasoning.

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


Meagan C. Pollock Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Meagan Pollock is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, currently finishing her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Meagan worked as a engineer for Texas Instruments, including three co-op rotations, before returning to school to earn her doctorate. She has earned a B.S. in Computer Science from Texas Woman’s University, and a Masters of Electrical Engineering from Texas Tech University.

 In addition, Meagan has developed secondary curriculum in STEM for and Scientific Minds, and worked as a research consultant for Texas Instruments Education Technology in exploring the K-12 Engineering Education market opportunities. As a researcher, Meagan’s current work is focused on closing the gender gap in engineering, improving STEM career counseling, equipping STEM professionals to be role models, and equity training for educators. 

As a volunteer, Meagan serves as a leader for Big Beacon: A Movement to Transform Engineering Education, as well as High Tech High Heels.

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

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Monica E. Cardella is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University and the Director of Informal Learning Environments Research for INSPIRE (the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning). She has a BSc in Mathematics from the University of Puget Sound and an MS and PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Washington. Her research focuses on: parents' roles in engineering education; engineering learning in informal environments; engineering design education; and mathematical thinking.

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Parents as Critical Influence: Insights from five different studies (Research)Parents play a number of roles in engineering education: they can motivate children’sinterest in engineering in early childhood, as well as later when their child is in theprocess of selecting a major at college, they can provide support in learning engineeringconcepts and thinking skills, and can serve as role models if they themselves areengineers. Several empirical studies have shown that parents play a significant role in theoccupational aspiration and career goal development of their children. In addition,parents’ own beliefs and aspirations have been found to be important factors in children’scareer and academic aspirations. In recent reviews regarding children’s careerdevelopment, parents were highlighted as crucial and important figures in developingoccupational awareness in their children. Additionally children have more understandingof the parents’ occupations than other occupations. Retrospective studies have alsorevealed that parents are a significant motivator, especially for low socio-economicstudents to enter into engineering. Finally, parents can provide scaffolding and othersupport as children learn engineering concepts and skills.Using multi-case analysis, this paper will examine the role of parents in engineeringeducation through five distinct studies. The first study, GRADIENT, looks at howparents engage in an engineering activity with girls aged 3-11 within two differentinformal settings and how parent gender has an impact on their interactions. The InformalPathways to Engineering (IPE) project investigates how informal engineering programssupport engineering-related learning over time with middle school students and theirsupport system of parents, teachers and other informal educators. The INFUSE studylooks at conversations between engineering parents and their children while reading anengineering storybook. A fourth study examines how intersectionality influenced theexperiences of nine female students in high school engineering where the interview datafrom the students and their parents reveal that institutions of race, class, and genderwithin their families play a significant role in these young women's interest in and entryinto engineering. The last study investigates the different ways that parents with anengineering background help their children to learn about engineering via interviews withthe parents.The collection of these five studies provides unique insights into and a morecomprehensive understanding of the ways that parents can and do play roles in PreK-12thgrade students’ engineering education.

Dorie, B. L., & Jones, T. R., & Pollock, M. C., & Cardella, M. E. (2014, June), Parents as Critical Influence: Insights from Five Different Studies Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22901

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