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Teachers’ Noticing Engineering In Everyday Objects And Processes

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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

Engineering Professional Development for K12 Teachers

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1140.1 - 13.1140.16



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Paper Authors


Sean Brophy Purdue University

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Sean P. Brophy, PhD. is an assistant professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Dr. Brophy is a learning scientist and engineer; his research focuses on the development of learners’ ability to solve complex problems in engineering, mathematics and science contexts. As a research scholar with INSPIRE he has been investigating teacher and students cognition of engineering problem solving and perceptions of engineering.

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Gemma Mann Purdue University

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Gemma E. Mann is a research associate with INSPIRE in Purdue University’s department of Engineering Education. She received her B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics from the University of Queensland, Australia and is in the final stages of her PhD in Materials Engineering from the same university. Her research interests are in K-12 engineering education for both students and teachers, and and the implications for the future of the engineering profession.

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

Teachers’ noticing engineering in everyday objects and processes


Engineers have been so successful at seamlessly integrating their achievements into the fabric of our daily lives that we often overlook how they influence our lives. Pearson and Young 1 discuss this paradox to emphasize the importance of increasing technological literacy of everyone. Prior studies of people’s (children and adults) perceptions of engineering describe peoples’ ability to notice the visible aspect of engineering created by civil (buildings, bridges), mechanical (cars, machines) and electrical engineering (electrical energy that runs our machines). An examination of their descriptions of engineering, however, often contains misconceptions. If teachers are part of the solution to develop students’ awareness of engineering, then we need to better understand their abilities to identify engineering within the world and to talk about it with their students. Our study evaluates teachers’ abilities to notice what is engineering in common products that we interact with each day (e.g., milk carton, apple peeler, water filter) and to identify the work of engineers in the field (e.g., environmental). Further we asked teachers to share how they would explain to their students how pictures pre-selected by engineering education researchers relate to engineering. In this paper, we share our coding scheme for teachers’ responses, and we compare their development from pre- to post- participation in our summer professional development activities. This method builds on prior studies that use photos as stimulus responses. Unlike other studies, we are systematically exploring specific image types that elicit response to a wide range of engineering products and processes that influence our lives. In addition, we are looking to see how well these methods work to differentiate various disciplines of engineering.


K12 engineering education Teacher professional development Research methods


The products of engineering have become common objects in today’s world 1. Despite this, the general population’s understanding of engineering is extremely limited with 95% of a sample of adults in the United States believing that engineers solve problems, and develop transportation, including automobiles and airplanes, highways, bridges, and tunnels 2. This limited understanding is also prevalent in schools with students in grades 3 to 12 having preconceived ideas about engineers as men that use tools to build buildings and fix car engines or are involved in designing things such as buildings and machines 3. This limited view of engineering has a potentially problematic impact on meeting the future demand for engineers 4. An even more important and more wide-spread impact is the need for people to be able to interact with the ever increasing amount of technology that engineering produces 1. Misconceptions about engineering have lead elementary students to dislike engineering and hence not willing to learn about it 5, 6.

Brophy, S., & Mann, G. (2008, June), Teachers’ Noticing Engineering In Everyday Objects And Processes Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4346

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