Engineering problem finding in high school students.

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Engineering problem finding in high school students.

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The purpose of this study was to explore the engineering problem finding ability of high school students at three high schools in Minnesota. Students at each of the three schools had differing backgrounds including pre-engineering coursework, traditional technology education coursework and advanced science coursework. Students were asked to find problems in two different engineering scenarios which were presented to them on a paper and pencil instrument. Responses were scored by a panel of judges based on measures of creativity (flexibility, fluency, originality and elaborateness) and analyzed based on demographic data including gender, prior coursework and school. In addition student responses were categorized and evaluated qualitatively based on school and gender of respondent. Quantitative results indicate that the most consistent predictor of creativity in engineering problem finding scenarios was the number of advanced science classes. Specific measures of creativity included other significant predictors but advanced science coursework was the most consistent across all measures and scenarios. The qualitative results showed striking differences in the responses from students at different schools. Students from schools with a pre-engineering and advanced science emphasis found similar categories of problems and had a similar view of the purview of engineers while students with a technology education background focused on a rather different set of problems and had a much narrower view of engineering. Results show clear differences in the types of problems found by students at these three high schools as well as their understanding of the scope of engineering problems. Educators need to become more aware of the importance of problem finding in engineering and better encourage the development of problem finding skills among their students. Specifically, technology education teachers may need supplemental professional development related to the scope of engineering and engineering problem finding as well as how these concepts might be infused into their curriculum and encouraged among their students.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2009. Major: Education, Work/Community/Family Education. Advisor: Dr.Theodore Lewis. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 128 pages, appendices A-D.

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Franske, Benjamin James. (2009). Engineering problem finding in high school students.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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