Equity in Engineering: Understanding and Promoting All Elementary School Children's Knowledge of and Motivation to Engage in Engineering

Project Information

Principal Investigator: Lorey Wheeler
Co-Principal Investigator:
Funding Agency: NSF
Award Date:
Theme: Early Childhood, Families & Schools, Research Methodology, STEM Education
Project URL: N/A

For more information please contact Lorey Wheeler at lorey@unl.edu.


As the number of engineering careers continues to grow, many of those jobs remain unfilled due to a shortage of skilled employees. In recent years, a low percentage of adults are earning degrees and pursuing careers in engineering.


This project evaluates and promotes elementary school children’s knowledge of, and motivation to, engage in engineering. Researchers will first develop and validate new measures to assess children’s occupational knowledge, stereotypes and achievement-related beliefs within the engineering domain. They will then survey 1,200 students, grades K-5, to learn about their engineering knowledge, stereotypes and achievement-related beliefs — and examine potential age, gender and ethnic differences.


Parents and teachers will also submit surveys about their own achievement-related beliefs.


The research team will then launch a growth-mindset pilot program and compare it to a control group. Students in the growth-mindset program will receive feedback that promotes effort over innate ability. That feedback may be, “You worked really hard and are showing that you can do it,” rather than, “You’re so smart.”


Findings will help evaluate a strategy to promote students’ achievement-related beliefs and performance in engineering to help generate increased interest in the field.