99 ERC SES 02 M, Sociologies of Education
National Research Council (2012) defined three major purposes of STEM education: developing STEM literacy, promoting 21st century skills like problem solving, creativity, collaboration and increasing the number of people pursuing a career in STEM-related careers. However, literature indicates the decrease in the number of students choosing STEM-related careers (Ball et al., 2016; Wang & Degol, 2013). Since middle school years play a critical role in students’ career choices and developing their own interest (Low et al., 2005; Skamp, 2007), studies conducted with students at this grade level are very important. For example, Sheldrake (2018) conducted a longitudinal study and surveyed middle school students for four years to gain insight about their desire to choose science-related careers and concluded that some students tend to change their aspirations positively to follow a science-related careers between the ages of 11 and 14. Moreover, some studies designed in-school and out-of school STEM activities to engage students in STEM-related careers (Baran, Canbazoglu-Bilici, Mesutoglu, & Ocak, 2019; Dubetz & Wison, 2013; Evans, Lopez, Maddox, Drape & Duke; 2014; Mohr-Schroeder et al., 2014) and these efforts is considered as valuable to increase the possibility of students’ career choice in STEM fields (Kitchen, Sonnert & Sadler, 2018).
European Parliament Report (2015) called as “Encouraging STEM Studies for Labor Market” highlighted the importance of encouraging young people towards STEM careers. The report argues that stereotypes and incomplete perceptions of STEM related careers play a major role for why young people avoid choosing STEM-related careers. Portraying their stereotypes related to what scientist and engineers do as a first step might be helpful for developing their interest towards science and increase their desire to choose STEM-related careers (Thomson, Zakaria & Radut, 2019). Therefore, it is essential to understand their perceptions at first and then design effective projects to improve their existing perceptions. Research on students’ perceptions of scientists have been studying for nearly 60 years and Chambers (1983) developed Draw A Scientist Test (DAST) which is one of the commonly used measurement to understand students’ perceptions of scientists since then. Later, many researchers followed Chambers’ work and administered DAST to elementary students in many different contexts and countries (Finson 2002; Ward, Laura & Stahl, 2020; Lyden, Fitzallen & Barra, 2015; Scholes & Stahl, 2020). With the increasing importance of STEM education worldwide, Knight and Cunningham (2004) developed Draw-An-Engineer-Test (DAET) which is very similar to DAST by nature to uncover students’ conceptions of engineering. Studies conducted DAET with middle school students have found some common misinterpretations; the images generally depicted engineers as workers rather than designers or planners (Capobianco, Diefes-Dux, Mena & Weller; 2011; Chou & Chen, 2017; Park & Lee; 2014; Thompson & Lyons, 2005). The purpose of the present study is to determine middle school students’ perceptions of scientists and engineers and their career interest towards science and engineering. In addition, the differences between perceptions and career interests according to gender were also examined. The research questions guided the present study were: (1) How are middle school students’ perceptions of scientist? (2) How are middle school students’ perceptions of engineers? (3) How are middle school students’ interest towards STEM-related careers? Studies in the literature generally investigate students’ perceptions separately and therefore, the present study is considered as significant for investigating middle school students’ perceptions of science and engineering together and provides opportunity with comparing their perceptions in four categories: appearances, objects, inferred action and location.
Survey research design was employed in the present study to obtain information related to participants’ perceptions and interests towards STEM careers. One hundred twenty-five middle school students from a public school which is located in the western part of Turkey participated in the study. Of the participants, 50.4% of them were girls and 49.4% of them were boys and the students were aged between 11 and 14. Participants were selected through convenience sampling. The data were collected by means of four instruments: Draw-a-Scientist Test (DAST), Draw-an-Engineer Test (DAET), STEM Career Interest Survey – Science and Engineering Subscales and Engineering Discipline Information Form. DAST was originally developed by Chambers (1983) and aims to determine students' perceptions of scientists. Students were asked to draw a scientist in their mind and answer open-ended questions about the characteristics of the scientist that they drew. DAET (Knight & Cunningham, 2004) was used to examine middle school students’ perceptions of engineers. It includes two main parts: students were asked to draw an engineer while doing engineering work in the first part and then explained and justified their drawings through open-ended questions in the second part. The checklist created by Fralick et al. (2009) was used together with the codes developed by Knight and Cunningham (2004) to analyze DAST and DAET. Moreover, STEM career interest survey (STEM-CIS) (Kier, Blanchard, Osborne & Albert, 2014) was used to measure middle schoolers interest towards science and engineer careers. There are four subscales in the original form of the survey; however, only Science and Engineering subscales were utilized in the present study in parallel with the research questions. Each subscale includes ten items and participants rated their interest regarding STEM careers on a 5-point Likert scale. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were used and data were analyzed through SPSS 20. Lastly, Engineering Discipline Information Form (Ercan, 2014) were used to investigate middle school students’ knowledge and skills towards engineering. It originally consists of 14 open-ended questions but six of them were decided to be used in accordance with the scope of this study. Some of the examples from questions were: (1) Can you list the different engineering fields that you know, (2) what kinds of product do you think science and engineering disciplines produce? Can you explain their similarities and differences? Analytic grading rubric (Ercan, 2014) was used for scoring questions and each question was scored between 0 to 4 points.
The results descriptive analysis related to STEM Career Interest Survey revealed that students’ interest towards science related careers (M= 3.94, SD= .73) were higher than their interest towards engineering careers (M= 3.64, SD= .88). When the gender differences were considered, independent t-test results indicated that girls’ interest in science career (M= 4.11, SD= .68) were significantly higher than male students' interests (M= 3.78, SD= .74); (t(124)= .03, p< .05). Conversely, there was no significant difference between girls’ and boys’ interests toward engineering careers. The results of Engineering Discipline Information Form indicated that middle school students had limited knowledge about studies related to science and engineering fields (M= 1.37, SD= .63). Participants had difficulty in differentiate between scientists and engineers’ work. When drawings were examined it was seen that most of the students have positive and accurate perceptions of scientists. However, the drawings included some stereotypical images of scientists; being male (63.3%), wearing laboratory coats (21.10%), working in closed areas (68.81), using glasses (35.78) and making experiments (41.28%). These findings are similar with the previous studies (Finson 2002; Ward, Lyden, Fitzallen & Barra, 2015). On the other hand, nearly half of the participants had no perceptions related to engineering. Drawings of the engineers were mainly focused on building, fixing, and operating (18.27%) instead of designing, problem-solving, planning (4.81%). Moreover, most of the students drew engineers as a male character (59.62%). The results of DAET is consistent with the earlier studies (Capobianco et al., 2011; Knight & Cunningham, 2004). Some objects that were not present in Checklist were found in students’ drawings such as microscopes, planets and items related computer engineers and suggestions were made for the improvement of Checklist at the end of the study. This work was supported by Middle East Technical University GAP-501-2018-3014 project in Turkey.
Selected References Ball, C., Huang, K. T., Cotten, S. R., Rikard, R. V., & Coleman, L. O. (2016). Invaluable values: an expectancy-value theory analysis of youths’ academic motivations and intentions. Information, Communication & Society, 19(5), 618-638. Chambers, D. W. (1983). Stereotypic images of the scientist: The Draw‐a‐Scientist Test. Science education, 67(2), 255-265. Chou, P., & Chen, W. F. (2017). Elementary school students’ conceptions of engineers: A drawing analysis study in Taiwan. International Journal of Engineering Education, 33(1), 476-488. Capobianco, B.M., Diefes-Dux,H.A., Mena, I.,&Weller, J. (2011).What is an engineer? Implications of elementary school student conceptions for engineering education. Journal of Engineering Education, 100(2), 304–328. Dubetz, T., & Wilson, J. A. (2013). Girls in engineering, mathematics and science, GEMS: A science outreach program for middle-school female students. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research, 14(3), 41-47. European Parliament (2015). Encouraging STEM studies for the labour market. Retrieved from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=IPOL_STU%282015%29542199. Ercan, S. (2014). Fen eğitiminde mühendislik uygulamalarının kullanımı: Tasarım temelli fen eğitimi. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), Marmara University, Istanbul/ Fralick, B., Kearn, J., Thompson, S., & Lyons, J. (2009). How middle schoolers draw engineers and scientists. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 18(1), 60-73. Kier, M. W., Blanchard, M. R., Osborne, J. W., & Albert, J. L. (2014). The development of the STEM career interest survey (STEM-CIS). Research in Science Education, 44(3), 461-481. Knight, M., & Cunningham, C. (2004, June). Draw an engineer test (DAET): Development of a tool to investigate students’ ideas about engineers and engineering. In ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition (Vol. 2004). Park, K. & Lee, H. (2014). Elementary students’ perceived images of engineers. Journal of Korean Earth Science Society, 35(5), 375-384. Scholes, L., & Stahl, G. (2020). ‘I’m good at science but I don’t want to be a scientist’: Australian primary school student stereotypes of science and scientists. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1-16. Sheldrake, R. (2018). Changes in children’s science-related career aspirations from age 11 to age 14. Research in Science Education, 50, 1435-1464. Thomson, M. M., Zakaria, Z., & Radut-Taciu, R. (2019). Perceptions of scientists and stereotypes through the eyes of young school children. Education Research International, 2019, 1-13. Wang, M. T., & Degol, J. (2013). Motivational pathways to STEM career choices: Using expectancy–value perspective to understand individual and gender differences in STEM fields. Developmental Review, 33(4), 304-340.
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