Propensity Score Analysis of the Impacts of Junior Secondary Students’ Participation in Engineering Practices on their Attitudes toward Engineering
Xiaohong Zhan 1
Daner Sun 2  
Rui Song 3
More details
Hide details
College of Teacher Education, Faculty of Education, East China Normal University, Shanghai, CHINA
The Education University of Hong Kong, HONG KONG
East China Normal University, CHINA
Online publish date: 2019-05-09
Publish date: 2019-05-09
EURASIA J. Math., Sci Tech. Ed 2019;15(11):em1765
The demand for engineering talent is increasing with economic and societal developments. Along with this, nations worldwide are attaching increasing importance to engineering education under international science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiatives. In China, engineering education at university levels is dominant. Corresponding systemic engineering education at the K-12 level has yet to be established. With the aim of determining the status of K-12 engineering education, this study investigates the impacts of students’ participation in engineering practice on their attitudes toward engineering. Survey responses from a sample of 2,193 students from junior secondary schools in Shanghai, China, are used. Sample selection bias is mitigated using propensity score methods based on weight hierarchy. The findings indicate the status of student participation in engineering practice and reveal the significant effect of the level of student participation in engineering practice on students’ attitudes toward engineering at junior secondary schools in China.
Abdulwahed, M. (2017). Technology Innovation and Engineering’ Education and Entrepreneurship (TIEE) in Engineering Schools: Novel Model for Elevating National Knowledge Based Economy and Socio-Economic Sustainable Development. Sustainability, 9(2), 171.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1995). Project 2061: Science for All Americans Summary. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Apedoe, X. S, Reynolds, B., Ellefson, M. R., & Schunn, C. D. (2008). Bringing engineering design into high school science classrooms: The heating/cooling unit. Journal of science education and technology, 17(5), 454-465.
Back, K. W. (2015). The level of participation and attitude of school physical education and the relationship with academic sress, ego-resilience and psychological wellbeing of high school students. Indian Journal of Science and Technology, 8(15), 2-6.
Bailey, R., & Szabo, Z. (2006). Assessing engineering design process knowledge. International Journal of Engineering Education, 22(3), 508-518.
Bamberger, Y. M., & Cahill, C. S. (2013). Teaching Design in MiddleSchool: Instructors’ Concerns and Scaffolding Strategies. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 22(2), 171-185.
Bazid, N. I., & Umar, I. N. (2014). Students’ level of participation, critical thinking, types of action and influencing factors in online forum environment. International Journal of Educational and Pedagogical Sciences, 8(12), 3818-3822.
Becker, F. S. (2010). Why don’t young people want to become engineers? Rational reasons for disappointing decisions. European Journal of Engineering Education, 35(4), 349–366.
Bell, P. (2009). The role of informal environments and experiences in the learning of science. Subcommittee on Research and Science Education & Committee on Science and Technology. Retrieved from
Besterfield-Sacre, M., Moreno, M., Shuman, L., & Atman, C. (2001). Self-assessed confidence in EC-2000 outcomes: A study of gender and ethnicity differences across institutions, Journal of Engineering Education, 90(4), 477–489.
Bohner, G., & Dickel, N. (2011). Attitudes and Attitude Change. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 1-21.
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (eds). (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.
Brookhart, M. A., Wyss, R., Layton, J. B., & Stürmer, T. (2013). Propensity score methods for confounding control in non-experimental research. Circulation: Cardiovasccular Quality Outcomes, 6(5), 604–611.
Brophy, S., Klein, S., Portsmore, M., & Rogers, C. (2008). Advancing engineering education in P-12 classrooms. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(3), 369-388.
Burrows, A., Lockwood, M., Borowczak, M., Janak, E., & Barber, B. (2018). Integrated STEM: Focus on Informal Education and Community Collaboration through Engineering. Education Sciences, 8(1), 4.
Bybee, R. W. (2011). Scientific and Engineering Practices in K–12 Classrooms - Understanding A Framework for K–12 Science Education. National Science Teachers Association, 35(4), 6-11.
Capobianco, B. M., Diefes-dux, H. A., Mena, I., & Weller, J. (2013). What is an engineer? Implications of elementary school student conceptions for engineering education. Journal of Engineering Education, 100(2), 304-328.
Capobianco, B. M., Yu, J. H., & French, B. R. (2015). Effects of engineering design-based science on elementary school science students’ engineering identity development across gender and grade. Research in Science Education, 45(2), 275-29.
Cardella, M. E., Wolsky, M., Paulsen, C. A., & Jones, T. R. (2013). 120th ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition.
Carr, R. L., Bennet IV, L. D., & Strobel, J. (2013). Engineering in the K‐12 STEM Standards of the 50 U.S. States: An Analysis of Presence and Extent. The Research Journal for Engineering Education, 101(3), 539-564.
Cerinsek, G., Hribar, T., Glodez, N., & Dolinsek, S. (2013). Which are my future career priorities and what influenced my choice of studying Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics? Some insights on educational choice—Case of Slovenia. International Journal of Science Education, 35(17), 2999-3025.
Chabalengula, V. M., & Mumba, F. (2017). Engineering design skills coverage in K-12 engineering program curriculum materials in the USA. International Journal of Science Education, 39(9), 1-17.
Custer, R. L., Daugherty, J. L., & Meyer, J. P. (2010). Formulating a Concept Base for Secondary Level Engineering: A Review and Synthesis. Journal of Technology Education, 22(1), 4-21.
Dankenbring, C., Capobianco, B. M., & Eichinger, D. (2016). Engineering Encounters: How to develop an engineer design task. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 14(5), 825-845.
David. E. E. (1987). A National Action Agenda for Engineering Education: A report. American Society for Engineering Education.
Dong, X. S., & Liu, X. W. (2017). A review of engineering education in China: History, present and future. 2017 ASEE International Forum.
Eagly, A., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The Psychology of Attitudes. Orlando, FL, US: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers.
Falco, L. D., & Summers, J. J. (2019). Improving career decision self-efficacy and STEM self-efficacy in high school girls: Evaluation of an intervention. Journal of Career Development, 46(1), 62-76.
Fan, X., & Nowell, D. L. (2011). Using propensity score matching in educational research. Gifted Child Quarterly, 55(1), 74–79.
Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2005). Understanding Student Difference. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 57-72.
Feng, M. (2016). The science and engineering practices in senior secondary biology classroom (Master Thesis). Hunan Normal University, China.
Franz-Odendaal, T. A., Blotnicky, K., French, F., & Joy, P. (2016) Experiences and perceptions of STEM subjects, careers, and engagement in STEM activities among middle school students in the maritime provinces. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 16(2), 153-168.
Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59-109.
Gao, Y. (2017). Integrating STEM Education into the Global Landscape in China. Science and Technology Trends. Retrieved from
George, D., & Mallery, P. (2003). SPSS for Windows step by step: A simple guide and reference. 11.0 update (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Gerber, E, M., Olson, J. M., & Komarek, R. L. D. (2012). Extracurricular design-based learning: preparing students for careers in innovation. International Journal of Engineering Education, 28(2), 317–324.
GETChina Insights. (2017). The STEM Education in China: There’s a Long Way to Go. Retrieved from
Gibbons, S. J., Hirsch, L., & Rockland, R. (2004). Middle school students’ attitudes to and knowledge about engineering. International Conference on Engineering Education, Gainesville, Florida, 16-21 Oct 2004.
Guzey, S. S., Harwell, M., & Moore, T. (2014). Development of an Instrument to Assess Attitudes toward Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). School Science and Mathematics, 114(6), 271-279.
Guzey, S., & Ring-Whalen, E. A. (2018). Negotiating science and engineering: an exploratory case study of a reform-minded science teacher. International Journal of Science Education, 40(7), 723-741.
Hayden, K., Ouyang, Y, Scinski, L., Olszewski, B., & Bielefeldt, T. (2011). Increasing student interest and attitudes in STEM: Professional development and activities to engage and inspire learners. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 11(1), 47-69.
Hazari, Z., Potvin, G., Cribbs, J. D., Godwin, A., Scott, T. D., & Klotz, L. (2017). Interest in STEM is contagious for students in biology, chemistry, and physics classes. Science Advances, 3(8). Retrieved from
Hippert, J., Stump, G., Husman, J., & Kim, W. (2008). In Proceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference. 38th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2008 - Saratoga Springs, NY, United States.
Hua, L. (2017). The investigation of teacher perceptions on engineering integration in science curriculum at junior secondary schools (Master Thesis). East China Normal University, China.
Jiang, F., & McComas, W. F. (2015). The Effects of Inquiry Teaching on Student Science Achievement and Attitudes: Evidence from Propensity Score Analysis of PISA Data. International Journal of Science Education, 37(3).
Karatas, F. O., Micklos, A., & Bodner, G. (2010). Sixth-Grade Students’ Views of the Nature of Engineering and Images of Engineers. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20(2), 123-135.
Katehi, L., Pearson, G., & Feder, M. (Eds.). (2009). Engineering in K-12 education: Understanding the status and improving the prospects. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Kimmel, H., & Rockland, R. (2002). Incorporating pre-engineering lessons into secondary science classrooms. Proceedings of the 32nd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Boston, MA.
King, G., & Nielsen, R. (2018). Why Propensity Scores Should Not Be Used for Matching. Retrieved from
Kotys-Schwartz, D., Besterfield-Sacre, M., & Shuman, L. (2011). Informal learning in engineering education: Where we are — Where we need to go. 2011 Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE).
Kőycű, U., & de Vries, M. J. (2016). What preconceptions and attitudes about engineering are prevalent amongst upper secondary school pupils? An international study. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 26(2), 243-258.
Kutnick, P., Chan, Y. Y., Chan, K.-Y., Good, D., Lee, P.-Y., & Lai, K. W. (2018). Aspiring to become an engineer in Hong Kong: effects of engineering education and demographic background on secondary students’ expectation to become an engineer. European Journal of Engineering Education, 43(6), 824-841.
Kutnick, P., Zhu, Z. Y., Chan, C. K. Y., Chan, Y. Y., Lee, P. Y., & Lai, V. (2017). Attitudes and aspirations regarding engineering among Chinese secondary school students: comparisons between industrialising and post-industrial geo-engineering regions of Mainland China and Hong Kong). Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 48(4), 608-629.
LaForce, M., Nobel, E.,& Blackwell, C. (2017). Problem-based learning (PBL) and student interest in STEM careers: The roles of motivation and ability beliefs. Educational Sciences, 7(4), 1-22.
Liu, X. (2017). A New Framework of Science and Technology Innovation Education for K-12 in Qingdao, China. 2017 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) International Forum.
Maeng, J. L., Whitworth, B. A., Gonczi, A. L., Navy, S. L., & Wheeler, L. B. (2017). Elementary science teachers’ integration of engineering design into science instruction: results from a randomised controlled trial. International Journal of Science Education, 39(11), 1529-1548.
Ministry of Education, People’s Republic of China (MoE China) (2012). On the Establishment of National Practical Engineering Education Centers (in Chinese). Retrieved from
Ministry of Education. (2017). Compulsory Education, Standards for Primary School Science Curriculum. People’s Republic of China. Retrieved from
Montfort, D. B., Brown, S., & Whritenour, V. (2013). Secondary Students’ Conceptual Understanding of Engineering as a Field. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research, 3(2), 1-12.
Moore, T. J., Tank, K. M., Glancy, A. W., & Kersten, J. A. (2015). NGSS and the landscape of engineering in K‐12 state science standards. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52(3), 296-318.
Nadelson, L. S., Pyke, P., Callahan, J., Hay, A., Pfiester, J., & Emmet, M.A. (2011). Connecting Science with Engineering: Using Inquiry and Design in a Teacher Professional Development Course. 118th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, June 26-29, 2011, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Nam, Y. Y., Lee, S. J., & Paik, S. H. (2016). The Impact of Engineering Integrated Science (EIS) Curricula on First-Year Technical High School Students’ Attitudes toward Science and Perceptions of Engineering. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 12(7). 1881-1907.
National Academy of Engineering. (2005). Educating the engineer of 2020: Adapting engineering education to the new century. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Institute of Education Sciences. (2017). White Paper of STEM Education in China. Retrieved from
National Research Council. (1999). Engineering Tasks for the New Century; Japanese and U.S. Perspectives. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved from
National Research Council. (2009). Engineering in K–12 education: Understanding the status and improving the prospects. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Research Council. (2010). Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
National Research Council. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from
National Science Teachers Association. (1982). Science/technology/society: Science education for the 1980s (NSTA Position Statement). Washington, DC: National Science Teachers Association.
NGSS. (2013). Asking Questions and Defining Problems. NSTA. Retrieved from
OECD. (2013). Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing.
Perrin, M. (2004). Inquiry-Based Pre-Engineering Activities for K-4 Students. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research, 5(3-4), 29-34.
Peterman, K., Daugherty, J. L., Custer, R. L., & Ross, J. M. (2017). Analysing the integration of engineering in science lessons with the Engineering-Infused Lesson Rubric. International Journal of Science Education, 39(14), 1913-1931.
Prins, G. T., Bulte, A. M. W., Driel, B. J. V., & Pilot, A. (2009). Students’ Involvement in Authentic Modelling Practices as Contexts in Chemistry Education. Research in Science Education, 39(5), 681-700.
Puente, G. van Eijck, M., & Jochems, W. (2011). Towards characterising design-based learning in engineering education: A review of the literature. European Journal of Engineering Education, 36(2), 137–149.
Rajecki, D. W. (1990). Attitudes. Sunderland, MA, US: Sinauer Associates.
Reid, N. (2006). Thoughts on attitude measurement. Research in Science and Technological Education, 24(1), 3–27.
Rogers, G. F. C. (1983). The Nature of Engineering—A Philosophy of Technology. The MacMillan Press Ltd., London, UK.
Rosenbaum, P. R., & Rubin, D. B. (1983). The central role of the propensity score in observational studies for causal effects. Biometrika, 70(1), 41–55.
Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Sheppard, S., Colby, A., Macatangay, K., & Sullivan, W. (2006). What is engineering practice? International Journal of Engineering Education, 22(3), 429-438.
Silver, A., & Rushton, B. S. (2008). Primary-school children’s attitudes towards science, engineering and technology and their images of scientists and engineers. International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, 36(1), 51-67.
Smail, B. (1993). Science for all pupils: gender issues in science education (p.89–99). In Sherrington, R (ed). The ASE primary teachers’ handbook. Hemel Hempstead: Simon and Schuster.
Smith, E., & White, P. (2019). Where do all the STEM graduates go? Higher education, the labour market and career trajectories in the UK. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 28, 26-40.
Strimel, G., & Grubbs, M.E.(2016). Positioning Technology and Engineering Education as a Key Force in STEM Education. Journal of Technology Education, 27(2). Retrieved from
Tang, X., & Wang, W. (2014). STEM integration: Analysis of the development of China’s K-12 science education. Educational Research, 9, 61-68. (In Chinese).
The Next Generation Science Standards Executive Summary. (2013). Retrieved from
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2008). Encouraging Student Interest in Science and Technology Studies. Global Science Forum. Retrieved from
Tseng, K. H., Chang, C. C., Lou, S. J., & Chen, W. P. (2013). Attitudes towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a project-based learning (PjBL) environment. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 23, 87-102.
UNESCO. (2010). Engineering: issues, challenges and opportunities for development. Retrieved from
Unfried, A., Faber, M., Stanhope, D. S., & Wiebe, E. (2015). The development and validation of a measure of student attitudes toward science, technology, engineering, and math (S-STEM). Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 33(7), 622–639.
Unlu, Z. K., Dokme, I., & Unlu, V. (2016). Adaptation of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Career Interest Survey (STEM-CIS) into Turkish. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 63, 21-36.
Wiebe, E., Unfried, A., & Faber, M. (2018). The relationship of STEM attitudes and career interest, EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 14(10), em1580.
Woolnough, B. E. (1994). Factors affecting students’ choice of science and engineering, International Journal of Science Education, 16(6), 659-676.
Wu, Q. (2015). Science education in China: International experience and localization. Retrieved from
Xie, Y., Zhang, C., & Lai, Q. (2014). China’s Rise as a Major Contributor to Science and Technology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, 111(26), 9437-9442.
Xu, K. (2008). Engineering education and technology in a fast-developing China. Technology in Society, 30(3-4), 265-274.
Zhan, X. (2011). Integrating engineering into K-12 science education: definition, goals and methods. Basic Education, 7(6), 45-49. (In Chinese).
Zhang, Y. (2018). Experts call for emphasis on STEM education in China. Retrieved from