Children's experiences of engineering education activities in rural schools in England at age 9/10
: the implications for engineering education and our approach to building engineering career aspirations in young people.

  • Rebecca Broadbent

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Schools in England are offered a range of activities aiming to engage students with engineering and increase the number who progress to engineering careers. However, monitoring of engineering education prior to university remains limited, and low progression rates onto engineering courses persist in the UK. Although the majority of engineering education provision had historically been aimed at secondary level education, the lack of visible results encouraged a more recent move towards provision for younger children. The current research set out to explore primary school children’s participation in Engineering Education Activities (EEAs); to achieve this, experiences of one-off EEAs were investigated from the first-person perspective of the children who participated in them. A case study approach was employed, using exploratory observations and semi-structured interviews to collect data from two cases across three school years (Year 5 to Year 7). The meta-analysis of the data, using a grounded theory approach, enabled a conceptual framework to be constructed. The framework facilitates an understanding of children’s experiences of EEAs, providing a foundation upon which to build, contributing knowledge to the field through the identification of a number of important concepts and their previously unacknowledged inter-relationships; most significantly, the emergence of the concept of Engineering Capital, and the importance of the formation of engineering self-efficacy at a young age. This research found that participation in the observed EEAs did not impart accurate perceptions of engineering to the children involved, leading to complex outcomes of participation, with the children’s personally held definitions of engineering appearing to influence their experiences of the EEAs and their engineering career aspirations. This work concluded that participation in an activity that does not impart accurate definitions of professional engineering to children, or build engineering self-efficacy, will have little positive impact upon their engineering career aspirations
Date of Award5 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJane Andrews (Supervisor), Robin Clark (Supervisor), Pete Hedges (Supervisor) & Lucy Rackliff (Supervisor)


  • pre-university
  • engineering education
  • qualitative child interviews
  • grounded theory
  • perceptions
  • engineering self-efficacy

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