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Title: “Because I’m Not Always Constantly Getting Everything Right”: Gender Differences in Engineering Identity Formation in Elementary Students
Developing a strong engineering identity, or sense of belonging in engineering, is essential to pursuing and persisting in the field. Participating in an engineering outreach program is widely seen as an opportunity for youth to ignite and increase an identity as an engineer. As early as elementary school, youth evaluate their experiences, interests, and successes to make choices about possible futures. Although these early experiences and choices influence future participation in, pursuit of, and persistence in engineering, studies of engineering identity development have concentrated on undergraduate and high school learners. This study examines engineering identity development in elementary school students participating in an engineering education outreach program, expanding understanding of early influences on engineering identity formation. This study asks: How do students’ descriptions of their engineering experiences indicate the influence their experiences have on their engineering identity development? This study is embedded in an NSF-funded study of a university-led engineering education outreach program. In this program, pairs of university students facilitated weekly hour-long engineering design challenges in elementary classrooms throughout the school year. At the end of the academic year, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 76 fourth- and fifth-grade students who had participated in the outreach program. The interviewers asked students more » to rate their enjoyment of and skills in engineering within the context of the program. Iterative qualitative coding was used to elicit emergent patterns in students’ responses and examine them in the context of the Godwin et al (2016) engineering identity framework, using the constructs of interest, performance/competence, and recognition. Responses were then analyzed based on participants’ gender to understand and identify potential differences in influences on engineering identity development. Findings indicate that student talk around interest tended to be more positive, while student talk around performance/competence tended to be more negative, indicating the type of relationships students had with their interest in engineering compared to their perceived skills in doing engineering. However, within the construct of performance/competence, girls used negative language at a higher frequency than boys. Within this construct-based code, there were categories with large variations in positive and negative talk by gender. These gendered patterns provide insight into the differing ways girls and boys interact with engineering and how they start to develop engineering identities. « less
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American Society of Engineering Education
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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