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Dissertation defense 4-14-2008 Euridice A. Oware

Event Date: April 14, 2008
Speaker: Euridice A. Oware
Time: 1:00 PM
Location: ME 119
PhD Dissertation Defense: Examining Elementary Students' Perceptions of Engineers
Euridice A. Oware

There has been a national focus on improving K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. The integration of engineering education from kindergarten through high school (K-12) has been identified as key to sustaining the U.S. economy and standard of living.

Misconceptions about the nature of engineering may deter children from even considering this profession. Currently, there are few research studies on young children's perceptions of engineers, and such research can be used to support children along STEM pathways. The purpose of this research was to investigate elementary students' perceptions of engineers for children enrolled in a gifted and talented outreach program. Participants included students enrolled in two structural engineering classes: one for 3rd and 4th graders and another for 5th and 6th grade students. Participants represented an age group that is not typically exposed to engineering. This research was framed within a constructivist theoretical framework and qualitative research methods were utilized in order to develop a rich understanding of the perspectives of students enrolled in the engineering outreach classes. Data collection included student pre and post questionnaires, Draw-an-Engineer tasks, and semi-structured interviews. Data analysis entailed the use of open and axial coding. Trustworthiness of data was determined through triangulation of multiple data sources. Results demonstrated how children describe the work of engineers, objects associated with engineering, tools used or created by engineers, and professional characteristics of engineers. In addition, influences on students'

perceptions of engineers were identified. The findings of this study have implications for the development of formal and informal K-12 curricula and programs that focus on improving students' understanding and application of engineering.