Impacts of Engineering Education in English Secondary Schools: A Systematic Review

Kutnick, P., Hossain, S.,Good,D. Impacts of Engineering Education in English Secondary Schools: A Systematic Review. The 2012 Annual Conference of the British Educational Research Association (BERA 2012), Manchester, UK., 4-6 September 2012. 


Low entry-rates into STEM subjects contrast with an increasing number of individuals required for careers in engineering. Understanding why a limited number of young people choose to study engineering is a particular problem in England. In part, the problem has been characterised as ‘STeM’; indicating that engineering had no formal, school-based curriculum until the 14-19 Engineering Diploma although all students have access to technology, science and mathematics courses perceived as the basis for engineering studies (noting also that extra-curricular engineering education initiatives exist).
Focus of Inquiry:
From the literature, we systematically identify: the qualities and outcomes of engineering education programmes/initiatives for secondary school-aged pupils in England; and, the range of pedagogies used within engineering (educational) interventions that may be linked with student course/career choice.
Research Methods/Analytic Framework:
This is a first systematic review of engineering education initiatives/experiences offered to secondary school pupils in England. The review undertook an ‘open’ approach allowing for an understanding of: context (curricular and extra-curricular); and, impacts of engineering education programmes/initiatives/interventions. On-line databases, on-line archives, engineering organisations and engineering/education journals were consulted for review data resulting in the identification of 200+ publications. Each publication was rated on a 3-point scale, based on relevance to engineering education, rigour of research methods and assessment of impact.
Research Findings:
Only a limited number of studies provided a thorough and rigorous evaluation of initiatives/programmes. These high quality studies were diverse and fragmented; few were fully
rigorous in approach; and few ventured beyond the description of an initiative to consider utcome/impact on participants. Key findings include: common features/characteristics to promote engineering included hands-on activities, field trips, role models/mentoring; experiential approaches had greater impact on student perceptions than formally taught science, mathematics or technology courses; many studies were designed for teachers allowing variable impact on students; university-led initiatives had positive effects on professors and ‘ambassadors’ but limited effects on teachers/students; pedagogic planning appeared limited to experiential (hands-on) activities and was associated with high levels of engagement but there was little assessment of impact on course/career choice; gender and ethnicity concerns were emphasised in the use of role models although impact of
this approach was not considered. While studies suggest students’ awareness of engineering increases via: positive role models, good teaching, involvement of parents, embedding engineering into the curriculum there is little information of ‘effective’ pedagogies or impact on course/career choice due to a dearth of rigorous and representative studies.