Parents play a number of roles in engineering education: they can motivate children’s interest in engineering in early childhood, as well as later when their child is in the process of selecting a major at college, they can provide support in learning engineering concepts and thinking skills, and can serve as role models if they themselves are engineers. Several empirical studies have shown that parents play a significant role in the occupational aspiration and career goal development of their children. In addition,parents’ own beliefs and aspirations have been found to be important factors in children’s career and academic aspirations. In recent reviews regarding children’s career development, parents were highlighted as crucial and important figures in developing occupational awareness in their children. Additionally children have more understanding of the parents’ occupations than other occupations. Retrospective studies have also revealed that parents are a significant motivator, especially for low socio-economic students to enter into engineering. Finally, parents can provide scaffolding and other support as children learn engineering concepts and skills.Using multi-case analysis, this paper will examine the role of parents in engineering education through five distinct studies. The first study, GRADIENT, looks at how parents engage in an engineering activity with girls aged 3-11 within two different informal settings and how parent gender has an impact on their interactions. The Informal Pathways to Engineering (IPE) project investigates how informal engineering programs support engineering-related learning over time with middle school students and their support system of parents, teachers and other informal educators. The INFUSE study looks at conversations between engineering parents and their children while reading an engineering storybook. A fourth study examines how intersectionality influenced the experiences of nine female students in high school engineering where the interview data from the students and their parents reveal that institutions of race, class, and gender within their families play a significant role in these young women's interest in and entry into engineering. The last study investigates the different ways that parents with an engineering background help their children to learn about engineering via interviews with the parents.The collection of these five studies provides unique insights into and a more comprehensive understanding of the ways that parents can and do play roles in PreK-12th grade students’ engineering education.
Date of this Version