Interviewing can be tricky at best, but with a younger audience (< 5 years) there are some additional barriers that inhibit the interview process such as shyness, short attention span,lack of vocabulary, and level of parental guidance (Clark, 1999). When in an interview, a child may try to ‘second guess’ what the researcher wants them to say, especially if they believe that the interviewer may already know the answer (Gallop, 2000). Additionally young children tend to give monosyllabic answers to open ended questions (Tizard &Hughes, 1984), and might require more prompting than adults.One aide that has been recently investigated is the use of puppets to elicit children’s talk for research (Epstein et al., 2008). Puppets have been shown to: • Decrease children’s fears of the interview process • Lower anxiety levels • Help assess children’s knowledge • Help children to adjust to environment • Provide effective communication and teaching tools. Most research focuses on puppets within clinical contexts, but recently the use has been extended towards other applications such as qualitative interviews (Epstein et al., 2008),mathematical lessons (Cauley, 1988), promoting science engagement (Naylor et al,2007), and teaching phonics (Johnston & Watson, ???). However, there has not been any documented use of this research approach within engineering education.There are three common interview techniques involving puppets in practice: the Alien Puppet Interview (API) (Krott and Nicoladis, 2005), the Puppet Interview (PI) (Cassidy,1988; Verschueren, Buyuk and Marcoen, 2001) and the Berkeley Puppet Interview (BPI) (Measelle et al., 1998; Ablow et al., 1999). Each technique has a different strategy depending on how the child interacts with the puppet.As part of a larger project, children ages 3-5 were interviewed about an engineering task that they had just completed with their parents during a museum event. The interview was a hybrid mix of the Alien Puppet Interview and the Puppet Interview, depending on the way in which the child interviewee chose to interact with the puppet. Thirty interviews were analyzed for children’s interaction, quality of answers, and behavior toward the puppet.In the paper, we will provide more details about the specific interview approach used for our study (as well as insights into how children responded to this interview approach) in addition to a larger discussion of the three interview techniques in order to provide a research methodology resource for other pre-college engineering education researchers to use.
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