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Middle school girls’ perceptions of engineers before and after a female only summer enrichment program (Hirsch et al. 2011)

  • Findings

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Hirsch, L., Berliner-Heyman, S., Cano, R., Kimmel, H., & Carpinelli, J. (2011). Middle school girls’ perceptions of engineers before and after a female only summer enrichment program. Paper presented at the 2011 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference.


  • In a study performed over the course of a summer engineering program for 4th- through 8th-grade girls, the authors sought to determine whether participants’ attitudes toward engineering changed from the beginning to end of the program and whether traditional surveys fully captured participants’ growth over the course of such an experience.
  • The authors administered two tests, the Middle School Attitude to Mathematics, Science and Engineering Survey (MATE) and the Draw an Engineer Test (DAET), to about 100 participants in a summer 2009 New Jersey Institute of Technology engineering program for 4th- to 8th-grade girls. The MATE comprises seven psychological subscales focused on students’ interest in various aspects of engineering, attitudes toward mathematics and science, problem-solving, knowledge of engineering, and perceptions of males’ and females’ relative competence in mathematics and science; the DAET prompts respondents to draw an engineer at work and summarize their drawing in a sentence. Participants took both tests before beginning and after completing the program.
  • The study found that girls’ knowledge of engineering increased significantly; at the beginning of the study, fewer than half of the participants could name one or more kinds of engineers, but by the end of the program more than 85 percent of participants correctly identified at least one kind of engineer.
  • Differences in pre- and post-program engineer drawings and descriptions suggested more nuanced changes in girls’ understanding of engineering. For example, the proportion of responses depicting engineers communicating with others more than doubled, from only 12 percent before the program to 30 percent afterward. The authors concluded that the DAET complements the MATE and warranted further study as a measure of children’s changing perceptions of science and scientists.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2016