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Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 123–135 | Cite as

Sixth-Grade Students’ Views of the Nature of Engineering and Images of Engineers

  • Faik O. Karatas
  • Amy Micklos
  • George M. Bodner
Article

Abstract

This study investigated the views of the nature of engineering held by 6th-grade students to provide a baseline upon which activities or curriculum materials might be developed to introduce middle-school students to the work of engineers and the process of engineering design. A phenomenographic framework was used to guide the analysis of data collected from: (1) a series of 20 semi-structured interviews with 6th-grade students, (2) drawings created by these students of “an engineer or engineers at work” that were discussed during the interviews, and (3) field notes collected by the researchers during the interviews. The 6th-grade students tended to believe that engineers were individuals who make or build products, although some students understood the role of engineers in the design or planning of products, and, to a lesser extent in testing products to ensure that they “work” and/or are safe to use. The combination of drawings of “engineers or engineering at work” and individual interviews provided more insight into the students’ views of the nature of engineering than either source of data would have offered on its own. Analysis of the data suggested that the students’ concepts of engineers and engineering were fragile, or unstable, and likely to change within the time frame of the interview.

Keywords

6th-Grade students Engineering design Engineers-at-work drawings Middle-school students The nature of engineering Phenomenography 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Bechtel Foundation and the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University for funding this project as part of an initiative to promote research in engineering thinking in pre-K to 6th-grade (P-6) learners.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Faik O. Karatas
    • 1
  • Amy Micklos
    • 2
  • George M. Bodner
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Secondary Science and Mathematics EducationKaradeniz Technical UniversitySogutlu, TrabzonTurkey
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry and School of Engineering EducationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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