2013 ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia.

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Parents are the front line when it comes to the education and development of their children, and are important agents in the educational achievement of their child in a formal setting (Yun et al, 2010; Catsambis, 1995; Fan & Chen, 2001; Seyfried & Chung,2003). Parents purchase toys, read books, take children to museums, and interact with their child on a daily basis. Particular background with a subject, such as science or engineering, can affect the parent’s strategies for educating their children and subsequent understanding of main concepts (Yun et al., 2010). However, many adults and children alike have a minimal understanding of engineering (NRC, 2009). Additionally, parents have a major influence on a child’s career choice, especially those in non-dominant groups (Taylor et al., 2003; Dryler, 1998). A survey of undergraduate engineering students found that women were significantly more likely to have a parent who is an engineer and to have previously studied engineering before college (Mannon & Schreuders, 2007). Engineering parents may pass on engineering-related knowledge, interests and aspirations to their progeny. The purpose of this study is to determine what engineering parents are doing to educate their children about engineering. In this study, interviews of 24 parents who self-identified as having an engineering backgrounds and doing something to help their children learn about engineering were analyzed in order to begin to capture a variety of approaches that parents have taken in order to shape their children’s exposure to engineering. Participants were recruited in order to capture breadth in terms of engineering experiences. Participants’ backgrounds were from a diverse assortment of industry (n = 8), faculty (n = 14), and students (n =2),participating in twenty different engineering disciplines. The open-ended interviews included parents’ background, interactions with children (content, strategies and reactions), parenting ideology, and parent’s own understanding of engineering. Parents primarily reported teaching their children engineering through inquiry based learning (Q&A sessions, museum exhibits) and interactions with media (books,computers, television, and toys). While many parents stated that they don’t explicitly teach engineering concepts, several mentioned that they are explicitly encouraging a specific way of thinking about problem solving. The findings from this study provide opportunities for future research as well as educational interventions. First, we are using these findings as a baseline for research investigating differences between parents with and without an engineering background.In the future, we can also use these finding to inform the development of K-12 classroom activities. Finally, we are already using the findings to create resources for parents.


2013, ASEE, parenting

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