Find out more about the background to our project. What is the research that has motivated us to work with 3-7-year-old children and engineering? What are the research questions that we plan to answer? The sections below give a brief overview and we'll publish more detailed descriptions and updates on our work as it progresses.
Reasons of economics and equality
Engineering contributes 26% to UK GDP
Annual shortfall of 59,000 engineers and technicians in the UK
Lack of diversity in the workforce, e.g. only 9.7% are female
Many children, parents and teachers have limited understanding of what engineers actually do
WHY 3-7 YEAR-OLDS?
Critical to start early
By age 7 children have ruled out careers as being "not for people like them"
Very young children exhibit stereotypes which influence their behaviour and choices
Lack of careers interventions, engineering activities and associated research at ages 3-7
IMPACT ON CHILD DEVELOPMENT
Engineering has been shown to:
Enhance social and emotional skills, via working together with peers, parents and/or teachers
Develop gross and fine motor skills, through hands-on challenges
Support curiosity, problem-solving, resilience and creativity
Increase school-readiness, e.g. follow directions and processes
How does engineering support learning?
Engineering activities lead to improved knowledge in science, especially early maths skills
Use of an engineering design process enables practice for following directions and processes
Asking children to reflect on engineering choices develops self-reflection and ability to communicate ideas
Increases awareness of engineering in everyday life
IDEAS FOR PARENTS AND CARERS
Families have asked us about what they can do to tackle stereotypes and foster an interest in science and engineering. We will post ideas for activities and findings from our research as soon as we can. In the meantime guidance from previous studies suggest:
Provide "engineering" resources for play at home, e.g. blocks often promote play that has aspects of engineering like problem-solving, refining and improving designs etc
Talk about science and engineering at home - start from things you are already interested in and try to find science and engineering links
Use counter-stereotypical images and books
Acknowledge, and challenge, stereotypes when you see them in play or on the news, in books etc
Challenge your own stereotypes and views of science and engineering (how you see science impacts how your child views it)
Adopt a 'growth mindset': your science and engineering ability is not fixed. Anyone can be good at these topics
Learn more about engineering and the variety of career options available
WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF OUR RESEARCH?
The primary aim of our project is to deliver fun and engaging engineering activities to showcase the breadth and diversity of engineering. At the same time the research side will look at the how, what and why of successful engagement. The aim is to develop an improved understanding of how young children develop an engineering identity and make practical recommendations for design and implementation of engineering interventions aimed at 3-7-year-olds.
We will investigate things like:
How do 3-7-year-olds view engineers and engineering? Is there a difference based on factors like gender, ethnicity, socio-economic class etc?
What are the perceptions and attitudes of teachers, parents and carers towards engineering?
What kinds of activities and resources are most effective at challenging stereotypes and changing views of engineering?
How can teachers best support engineering activities, e.g. what kind of language, teaching style etc is most effective?
What are the best techniques for parents and carers to facilitate interest in engineering?