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Using Puppets to Elicit Talk During Interviews on Engineering with Young Children

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Starting Them Early

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1334.1 - 23.1334.7



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Paper Authors


Brianna L Dorie Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Brianna Dorie is a doctoral candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses upon how young children engage in and learn about engineering in informal environments, especially through the use of media.

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Zdanna Tranby

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Scott K Van Cleave Science Museum of MN


Monica E Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Monica Cardella is an assistant professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is also the director of Informal Learning Environments Research for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Learning and Research (INSPIRE). She conducts research on undergraduate engineering students' design and mathematical thinking in formal and informal contexts in addition to research on how children develop engineering thinking in informal learning environments.

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Gina Navoa Svarovsky Science Museum of Minnesota

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Using Puppets to Elicit Talk During Interviews on Engineering with Young Children (Method)Interviewing can be tricky at best, but with a younger audience (< 5 years) there are someadditional barriers that inhibit the interview process such as shyness, short attention span,lack of vocabulary, and level of parental guidance (Clark, 1999). When in an interview, achild may try to ‘second guess’ what the researcher wants them to say, especially if theybelieve that the interviewer may already know the answer (Gallop, 2000). Additionallyyoung children tend to give monosyllabic answers to open ended questions (Tizard &Hughes, 1984), and might require more prompting than adults.One aide that has been recently investigated is the use of puppets to elicit children’s talkfor research (Epstein et al., 2008). Puppets have been shown to: • Decrease children’s fears of the interview process • Lower anxiety levels • Help assess children’s knowledge • Help children to adjust to environment • Provide effective communication and teaching toolsMost research focuses on puppets within clinical contexts, but recently the use has beenextended towards other applications such as qualitative interviews (Epstein et al., 2008),mathematical lessons (Cauley, 1988), promoting science engagement (Naylor et al,2007), and teaching phonics (Johnston & Watson, ???). However, there has not been anydocumented use of this research approach within engineering education.There are three common interview techniques involving puppets in practice: the AlienPuppet Interview (API) (Krott and Nicoladis, 2005), the Puppet Interview (PI) (Cassidy,1988; Verschueren, Buyuk and Marcoen, 2001) and the Berkeley Puppet Interview (BPI)(Measelle et al., 1998; Ablow et al., 1999). Each technique has a different strategydepending on how the child interacts with the puppet.As part of a larger project, children ages 3-5 were interviewed about an engineering taskthat they had just completed with their parents during a museum event. The interviewwas a hybrid mix of the Alien Puppet Interview and the Puppet Interview, depending onthe way in which the child interviewee chose to interact with the puppet. Thirtyinterviews were analyzed for children’s interaction, quality of answers, and behaviortoward the puppet.In the paper, we will provide more details about the specific interview approach used forour study (as well as insights into how children responded to this interview approach) inaddition to a larger discussion of the three interview techniques in order to provide aresearch methodology resource for other pre-college engineering education researchers touse.

Dorie, B. L., & Tranby, Z., & Van Cleave, S. K., & Cardella, M. E., & Svarovsky, G. N. (2013, June), Using Puppets to Elicit Talk During Interviews on Engineering with Young Children Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22719

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