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Sixth Grade Students’ Images Of Engineering: What Do Engineers Do?

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Assessment of K-12 Engineering Programs and Issues

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1083.1 - 13.1083.14



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Paper Authors

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Faik Karatas Purdue University

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Amy Micklos Purdue University

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George Bodner Purdue University

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

Sixth Grade Students’ Images of Engineering: What Do Engineers Do? Abstract

There has been a growing interest in teaching engineering in the K-12 context. It is therefore somewhat surprising to find that there have been few investigations on students’ views of engineering and the nature of engineering (VNOE) at this level. This project is based on the assumption that understanding students’ VNOE has as much potential for impact on engineering education as the views of the nature of science investigations have had on the field of science education. The overall goal of this study was to investigate 6th-grade students’ perceptions of the nature of engineering (NOE), and to understand the experiences that have shaped students’ perceptions of the field of engineering. The results of twenty 6th grade students’ drawings of an engineer or engineers at work with associated interviews related students’ own drawings from two mid-west middle schools are presented. Results indicated many students held common mis- and naïve conceptions about engineering, engineers, and what engineers do; specifically that engineers drive trains, fix cars, build houses, and work alone.


One of the main goals of science education is to prepare scientifically literate students. The Nature of Science (NOS) and the Nature of Technology (NOT) were inserted as central components of scientific literacy in ‘Science for All Americans,’ ‘Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy,’ and ‘National Science Standards’ documents1,2,3 because NOS/NOT serve as a base for understanding capabilities, power, and effects of technology.4,5,6 An understanding of the NOS/NOT helps today’s civilized societies make more informed decisions about developing and using new technologies more responsibly and rationally as well as evaluating the effects of technology on the environment and society.6

Research in science education has shown that students’ learning is influenced by their ideas regarding the NOS.7,8 Some science educators have claimed that an informed view of the NOS will improve students’ attitudes towards science, help them internalize science, and eventually enhance their science learning.9,10 The same argument could be appropriate for and can be applied to the engineering field. In other words, an understanding the nature of engineering (NOE) could improve students’ learning outcomes of engineering and technology. It could also affect how engineers see and conduct their professional lives after they graduate.11

Research has shown that the attitudes of high-school students toward engineering become more favorable as their knowledge of engineering increase.12 The International Technology Education Association (ITEA)6 has asserted that an increasing knowledge of engineering may increase the number of students who choose engineering and technology as their future career. This is especially crucial because the number of students enrolling in engineering and technology has been constant or declining in recent years. At the same time, the need for engineering and technology related school graduates is higher than ever.13 There has been a growing interest in integrating engineering curriculum at the K-12 level as a result of the higher demand of engineers and technicians.6,14,15 Science education research has shown that conceptions and

Karatas, F., & Micklos, A., & Bodner, G. (2008, June), Sixth Grade Students’ Images Of Engineering: What Do Engineers Do? Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4012

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