Asee peer logo

What Do Schoolgirls Think of Engineering? A Critique of Conversations from a Participatory Research Approach

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

WIED: Pre-College Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1367.1 - 24.1367.14



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jane Andrews Aston University

visit author page

Dr Jane Andrews is Programme Director of a suite of Engineering Management Master's Programmes at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, Aston University, UK. Her research interests include all aspects of engineering education with a particular focus on elementary level engineering education and gender issues within engineering.

visit author page

author page

Robin Clark P.E. Aston University

Download Paper |


What do schoolgirls think of engineering? A critique of conversations from a participatory research approachContextualised by the fact that fewer than 12% of UK engineers are female, and aimed atexamining the issues behind current skills shortages in engineering, this paper adopts aparticipatory approach (Cornwall & Jewkes, 1995) to provide a unique insight into why theEngineering Profession continues to struggle to attract young women.MethodologyStarting with the research question “What do high school girls think of engineering as afuture career and study choice?”, two 17 year-old high school girls were trained in qualitativeinterview techniques and, working with the researchers, employed to interview their peers.Twenty in-depth interviews with 16 and 17 year old High School girls from two inner-cityschools in the UK were conducted by the two teenage interviewers. The advantage of peer-interviewing was that the young interviewees ‘opened up’ providing detailed and uniqueinsights into their perceptions and experiences of engineering, maths and science.Additionally a number of teachers and policy makers were interviewed by the researchersthemselves, adding further depth and detail to the study.FindingsBy employing girls to talk to girls about engineering the researchers were able to gain aunique ‘first-person’ view of what girls really think about engineering. The follow-upinterviews with teachers and policy makers framed the initial interviews providing contextand critique. Utilising qualitative analytical techniques three key ‘influences’ were identifiedas being pivotal to girls’ perceptions and experiences of engineering, maths and science:pedagogical; social; and, familial. The paper discusses each of these in considerable depthconcluding with practical and policy focused recommendations for the profession andgovernment.ReferencesCornwall, A. & Jewkes, R. (1995). “What is Participatory Research?” Social Science andMedicine. 41. 12. pp 1667-1676

Andrews, J., & Clark, R. (2014, June), What Do Schoolgirls Think of Engineering? A Critique of Conversations from a Participatory Research Approach Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23300

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015