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Parents’ Perception of and Familiarity with Engineering

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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

Engaging Families and Exciting Girls with Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1139.1 - 22.1139.12



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Paper Authors


Ming-Chien Hsu Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ming-Chien Hsu is a doctoral students in the school of engineering education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. at NCTU, Taiwan and M.S. at Purdue, both in electrical engineering. Ming-Chien's research focus is on design learning in the cross-disciplinary context, and K-12 engineering education.

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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. She is also the parent of two young children who know more about her iPod than she does.

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Senay Purzer Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Senay Purzer is an Assistant Professor in the School 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. Purzer has received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Science Education at Arizona State University. She has a B.S. degree in Physics Education and a B.S.E. in Engineering. She has journal publications on instrument development, teacher professional development, and K-12 engineering education. Her creative research focuses on design problem-solving, collaborative learning, and assessment research.

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A Survey to Assess Parents’ Perception of and Familiarity with EngineeringThe efforts of promoting engineering in K-12 education usually focus on students and teachers.However, parents can be important agents in infusing engineering in children’s learning, asresearch has provided evidence for parents’ impact on children’s attitudes towards learning asubject. Therefore, it is important to understand possible parental influence on children’sengineering learning. The purpose of the study is to provide validity evidence for a Lickert-scalesurvey exploring parents’ familiarity with engineering and their perceptions of engineering.For our theoretical foundation, we adopted the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior (KAB)Framework, which recognizes the interactive relationships between the three dimensions. In thisstudy, we constructed a 13-item survey to probe parents’ self-rated knowledge of engineering andattitudes towards engineering. Of the 13 items, 10 were adopted from a survey previously usedand validated for assessing K-12 teachers’ perceptions of and familiarity with engineering.Additionally, we added 3 questions pertaining to parental roles in engineering learning. A contentexpert reviewed several versions of the survey before the final version was deployed to 659parents on-line.We conducted exploratory factor analysis using principle component analysis with Verimaxrotation to examine the 13 items after checking the suitability of the data for factor analysis. Itrevealed three factors: i) importance of children learning engineering, ii) parents’ familiarity ofengineering content, and iii) parents’ interest in having engineering in K-12. These 3 factorsaccounted for 77.10% of the total variance.The parents as a whole thought it was important for children to learn engineering. On average,their self-rated familiarity with the engineering content was moderately high. They also showedmoderate interest in having engineering in K-12 classrooms.We then explored how parents of different genders, education levels, income levels and schooldistricts rated the items. The following are some of the significant differences we found. Anindependent t-test at a significance level of 0.05 found that male parents rated their familiaritywith engineering content significantly higher than female parents. A one-way between-groupanalysis of variance found significant difference in how parents of different education levelsrated their familiarity and their interest. Tukey’s HSD test found that college educated parentsrated themselves as more familiar in engineering and more interested in having their childrenlearning engineering at the K-12 level.The results of the study revealed some important questions regarding parents’ roles inengineering learning. For example, parents thought engineering is important while only showingmoderate interest in having their children learn engineering in K-12 classrooms. Furtherinvestigation should be conducted to understand parents’ concerns that caused this imbalance.Furthermore, the differences found in familiarity and interest between parents of differenteducation background prompts the question of how parents’ knowledge affects their attitudetowards engineering, which will have implications on promoting an engineering/technologyliterate society.

Hsu, M., & Cardella, M. E., & Purzer, S. (2011, June), Parents’ Perception of and Familiarity with Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18761

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