What is engineering? Elaborating the nature of engineering for K-12 education Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractWhat is engineering? What do engineers do? How is engineering related to, but distinct from, science? These questions all relate to the nature of engineering (NOE), and as engineering is incorporated into K12 education across the United States, the NOE is becoming increasingly important for students and teachers. While many policy documents call for students to learn more about the structure of the engineering discipline, little has been done to define the NOE construct. This paper presents key dimensions of the NOE via a framework synthesized from studies of the engineering discipline from philosophical, historical, and sociological perspectives, as well as perspectives from within the engineering field. The framework identifies and elaborates nine features of engineering, each of which capture an important aspect of the NOE. For teachers, these features serve as points of entry for discussing NOE ideas with students. For researchers, the features provide a set of constructs to guide future inquiries into teachers and students NOE knowledge.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Pleasants, J., & Olson, J. K.

citation count

  • 82

complete list of authors

  • Pleasants, Jacob||Olson, Joanne K

publication date

  • January 2019