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Toward A Technologically Literate Society: Elementary School Teachers’ Views Of The Nature Of Engineering

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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

Technological Literacy and K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1273.1 - 14.1273.14



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Paper Authors


Faik Karatas Purdue University

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Faik O. Karatas is a graduate student who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical/science education from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at Purdue University, working with Dr. George M. Bodner. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Education from Karadeniz Technical University in 1999 and 2003 respectively.
Address: Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, 560 Oval Drive, West Lafayette, IN, 47907;

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George Bodner Purdue University

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George M. Bodner is the Arthur E. Kelly Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Education, and Engineering at Purdue University, where he has been head of the Division of Chemical Education in the Department of Chemistry and a member of the faculty of the newly constituted Department of Engineering Education.
Address: Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, 560 Oval Drive, West Lafayette, IN, 47907; e-mail

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Toward a Technologically Literate Society: Elementary School Teachers’ Views of the Nature of Engineering Abstract

Generating a technologically literate society is considered to be one of the main goals of primary and secondary education. At the heart of technological literacy would be a knowledge of the nature of engineering (NOE) upon which content knowledge in engineering/technology could be built. Technological literacy of this nature cannot be developed among elementary school students, however, without dedicated and well-informed teachers. That raises the question: What should teachers know to promote technological literacy and spread it in their students’ hearts and minds? We believe that an appropriate view of the NOE can play a role in the development of engineering and technology literacy that is similar to the role that an appropriate view of the nature of science (NOS) plays in the development of scientific literacy. We therefore studied elementary-school teachers’ views of the NOE to obtain information that could guide both researchers and curriculum developers understand the current status of elementary-school education. A naturalistic research approach was applied to design of this study. Data were collected by employing individual interviews with ten K-5 teachers. Content analysis was applied to the interview data to find general themes and patterns in teachers’ views of the NOE. Results showed that teachers have positive attitudes towards engineering, but their knowledge of NOE is mostly limited to what they have experienced through popular culture. We noted that teachers’ views of the NOE were influenced by personal relationships they might have with engineers who were close relatives or friends. Another pattern that was found in teachers’ views of the NOE involved their perception that engineering is a problem-solving activity, or involved problem solving within the process of inventing or creating innovative products. Although the teachers believed that engineers need to function in a holistic fashion, taking social and economical factors into account in their work, their perceptions of engineering were not sufficiently rich to allow them to explain how social and cultural factors affect engineering. The results of this study of teachers’ views of the NOE provide insight into the way professional development programs for elementary-school teachers should be designed to help these teachers bring engineering into the elementary-school classroom.

Background and research questions

The literature on the nature of science (NOS) has suggested that students, teachers, and the vast majority of society, in general, believe certain common myths about science, including the myths that scientific facts are absolute and purely objective, that there is no role for human interpretation or imagination in science, and that scientists have certain rigid methods to generate scientific knowledge and/or solve problems.1-5 Driver and her colleagues 6 have shown that students form ideas about science, its process, and its product — scientific knowledge — before any formal science instruction. The students’ ideas are not nearly as sophisticated as those held by scientists and/or philosophers of science, but even elementary school students have ideas about how scientists work. It has been suggested that these ideas come from the students’ exposure to the image of science and scientists from a variety of sources, including films, television programs, and from their parents and relatives.7

Karatas, F., & Bodner, G. (2009, June), Toward A Technologically Literate Society: Elementary School Teachers’ Views Of The Nature Of Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5658

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