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Significant Cases Of Elementary Students' Development Of Engineering Perceptions

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Thinking, Reasoning, and Engineering in Elementary School

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1057.1 - 14.1057.16



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Paper Authors


Irene Mena Purdue University

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Irene Mena is a doctoral student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University.
Her M.S. and B.S. are both in Industrial Engineering. Her research interests include K-12
engineering education, first-year engineering, and graduate student professional development.

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Brenda Capobianco Purdue University

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Dr. Brenda Capobianco is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Curriculum and Instruction and Engineering Education, as well as Affiliated Faculty in Women's Studies at Purdue University.

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Heidi Diefes-Dux Purdue University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Significant Cases of Elementary Student Development Of Engineering Perceptions


Elementary engineering, or the inclusion of engineering ideas and concepts into the elementary school curriculum, is an area that has been recently developing. Because it is still an emergent area, not much is known about how students develop engineering understanding. The purpose of this study was to examine grades 3-5 students’ perceptions of engineering, the engineering design process, and the work of engineers as a result of engaging in a series of standards-based engineering learning activities. Emphasis was placed on identifying three cases of significance, one from each grade level, whereby the students exhibited significant growth in understanding of what engineering entails, what engineers do, and how the engineering design process works. Using situated learning as a theoretical lens, researchers in this study explored how students constructed and re-constructed their understandings before and after the learning experiences. Data were collected in the form of pre- and post-administration of the Draw-an-Engineer Task (DAET), the Engineering Identity Development Scale (EIDS), knowledge assessments, and semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using content analysis and grounded theory. All data sources were triangulated in an effort to recognize recurring patterns and assertions. Results from this study indicated that the three students reported more accurate and informed perceptions of engineers, specific examples of professional engineers, and improved understanding and application of the engineering design process, as a result of participating in the engineering learning activities. Implications for this study reinforce the notion that multiple data sources are necessary for accurately assessing what students do and do not know about engineering. Furthermore, this study sheds light on the need for the design and implementation of learning activities that will challenge and transform students’ misconceptions about engineering.


The primary goal of this research study was to examine students’ (grades 3-5) perceptions of engineering and how these perceptions are shaped by their engagement and learning in various engineering activities. The context of this research study is Purdue University’s Institute for P- 12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE), a new initiative focused on creating an engineering-literate society through preeminence in P-12 engineering education research and scholarship.

This study is part of a larger study that examined the multiple ways elementary school teachers develop, integrate, and assess students’ learning and understanding of engineering and the engineering design process. The research team worked collaboratively with the teacher participants to create authentic engineering learning activities and effective tools to measure learning. As the teacher participants and researchers analyzed the data, results from the various data sets indicated a general trend among individual students within each grade: after participating in the engineering learning activities, the students exhibited significant growth in understanding of what engineering entails, what engineers do, and how the engineering design process works.

Mena, I., & Capobianco, B., & Diefes-Dux, H. (2009, June), Significant Cases Of Elementary Students' Development Of Engineering Perceptions Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4559

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