The calling of an engineer: High school students' perceptions of engineering
MetadataShow full item record
The focus of this research study was to provide insight into high school students’ perceptions of engineering and the work engineers do. Participants included Grades 9 and 10 students, all of which were enrolled in academic English, Math, Science courses and are on the pathway towards college or university. This research was framed within a constructivist theoretical framework, and sequential multiple methods were utilized for data collection. The phase 1 questionnaire incorporated closed and open-ended questions pertaining to the engineering profession and was completed by 97 students, while 11 students participated in the phase 2 semi-structured interviews. The findings show that the major categories that emerged from these students’ descriptions of engineering involve the mental aspects of designing or creating, knowledge in Math and Science, and the physical aspect of building. In addition, some students were very clear that designers are the source of creative and innovative ideas, scientists are the source of new theories, and engineers are responsible for turning those creative ideas and/or the new theories into reality by physically building something. The perception that engineering involves building was a major source of confusion as many of these students described engineers in roles that could also be used to describe skilled trades. Therefore, a significant percentage of these Grades 9 and 10 students have unclear views about engineering, which suggests they currently cannot make an informed decision in considering engineering for a possible career path. An increase in student awareness of the engineering profession is needed to ensure students have the knowledge to make informed career choices, which may lead to achieving high-quality engineering graduates and diversifying the profession in Canada. One way to meet the current demand for engineers within Canada may be to ensure that pre-university students have sufficient knowledge about the work of a professional engineer as well as the important aspects of the profession. With this knowledge, they can make an informed decision in considering engineering as a possible choice for post-secondary study.