A Study Examining Change In Underrepresented Student Views Of Engineering As A Result Of Working With Engineers In The Elementary Classroom
2005 Annual Conference Proceedings
This paper describes the results of a National Science Foundation sponsored Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education project that was designed to increase elementary students' understanding of engineering, with an ultimate goal of increasing the probability of future involvement in engineering fields. This project, partnered graduate level engineering students called Engineering Fellows with grades 3, 4, and 5 urban classroom teachers. The Engineering Fellows worked for 20 hours a week over
... hours a week over an entire academic year as a resource for the teachers, with 10 of those hours spent in various teaching roles. To capture student perceptions of engineers and engineering, a pre and post "Draw-an-Engineer" instrument was administered to one hundred and ninety project students. Pre and post interviews that focused on student drawings and student understanding of engineering were also completed with a subset of students. In this paper, project schools with a majority of underrepresented minority students are compared to project schools that did not contain a majority of underrepresented minority students. This comparison focuses on changes in student drawings and interview data over time amongst both groups. This comparison includes a discussion of both groups in terms of their developing understanding of engineering processes, engineering tools, and engineering fields represented by the generic term "engineering". Also included is a discussion of results in terms of implications for future policies and decision-making related to K-12 STEM education. increasingly evident  . This leads to a series of questions related to why U.S. citizens, especially underrepresented minorities, are not choosing engineering careers and what can be done to address the underlying issues that create this situation. Many of the attitudes adults hold toward science and math are formed during elementary school and carried into adolescence and adulthood. Although elementary students' attitudes towards science and math are generally positive, their perceptions of scientists and engineers, and the work they do, are generally inaccurate  . Not only are these perceptions inaccurate, in the case of engineers, they are also generally less than favorable. For example, students ranked engineers eighth among 17 occupations in terms of prestige in a Harris poll  . These perceptions can influence students' selection of academic coursework throughout schooling, having a direct impact on student career opportunities  . The perceptions that are developed in elementary school then, result in fewer citizens selecting engineering careers.