Elementary students’ perceptions of STEM professionals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

One of the goals of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is to promote students’ understanding of and interest in STEM careers. However, young students often hold stereotypical perceptions of STEM professionals. This study aimed to apply two newly developed checklists to explore upper elementary students’ perceptions of scientists, engineers, and technologists as STEM professionals. A total of 564 valid responses were collected from fourth- to sixth-grade students. The data were collected using an instrument revised from the Draw-A-Scientist Test (Chambers in Sci Educ 67(2):255–265, 1983). Content analysis was conducted on students’ drawings and written descriptions of the STEM professionals’ work with the newly developed checklists and a categorization process, and inter-rater reliabilities were calculated to ensure trustworthiness. Results show that both girls and boys drew more male than female scientists, engineers, and technologists. Moreover, students tended to associate scientists with laboratory-related features, engineers with building construction, and technologists with technological products. In addition, students’ perceptions of scientists, engineers and technologists fell into seven major categories of careers, and students overwhelmingly placed inventors and programmers into their presentations of scientists and technologists, respectively, rather of engineers. The results indicate that gender stereotypes existed pervasively in the students’ perceptions of scientists, engineers, and technologists, with engineers being the most stereotyped. Moreover, the students associated engineers with various professions related to civil construction and did not see many other engineering professionals as engineers, implying that students generally have a naïve understanding about engineering. The mechanism underlying the formation of these stereotypes and potential countermeasures are discussed. Copyright © 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Technology and Design Education
Early online dateNov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 2022

Citation

Luo, T., & So, W. W. M. (2022). Elementary students’ perceptions of STEM professionals. International Journal of Technology and Design Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10798-022-09791-w

Keywords

  • DAST
  • Draw-A-Scientist Test
  • Elementary students
  • STEM careers
  • STEM education

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