Impact of educational robotics on interest towards technology careers and technology skills in Brazilian primary and secondary school students – a longitudinal case study approach
Paula, Eder Coelho
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The study investigated the development of interest towards technology careers and the development of technology skills stemming from the participation in Educational Robotics (ER) approaches in the Brazilian education context. The main research question which guided the investigation is: to what extent does the participation in ER within educational settings influence young learners’ interest in technology careers? The following subsidiary questions were addressed in order to explore the theoretical underpinnings informing the investigation: (1) to what extent does participation in ER within educational settings provide young learners with relevant technological skills?; (2) which learning experiences are more effective nurturing career interest in technology?; (3) to what extent does taking part in ER change students’ previously intended career choices?; (4) what kinds of barriers and supports have been found during the study and how they interacted facilitating or hindering career interest?; and (5) does the participation in ER within educational settings play a role in young learners’ development of a broader vision of the labour market? The research design was informed by a longitudinal qualitative case study approach. Three educational settings (Primary and Secondary Schools that implemented fulltime education using ER approaches) were part of the investigation. Online journals, analysis of documents (including ER curricula and ER projects developed by the participants), semi-structured interviews with young learners, teachers and volunteers, participant observation and researcher’s field notes were used as data gathering methods to understand better the phenomenon. Analysis was conducted using the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) as the theoretical framework used to understand the process of development of participants’ interest towards technology careers. The findings revealed that almost all the participants developed such career and/or academic interest towards technology to a certain extent. Notably, the teachers’ role as a determinant factor in helping nurture interest towards technology is discussed. Contextual factors capable of blocking and supporting the development of career interest towards technology in the Brazilian education context are also examined. Study findings were aligned with previous investigations that indicated limitations in terms of learning and attitudinal changes depending on the type of ER approach used. The present study contributes to the existing literature on the impact of ER on career interest in technology and the development of technology skills by investigating the notions of self-efficacy, outcome expectations, choice goals and interests which are being nurtured by Brazilian educational settings offering ER afterschool activities. This thesis recommends the review of ER curricula to help minimise barriers in the development of interest towards technology careers. It also recommends the adoption of multi-approach curricula by educational settings interested in developing educational robotics activities (afterschool or curriculum-integrated). It also proposes a classification to the degree of career interest developed as a result of the participation in ER approaches based on the specificities of the Brazilian education context and inspired by the SCCT. The study was able to provide an in-depth view of the extent to which interest towards technology was developed in young learners from the three case studies. Future research is necessary to address the long-term impact of educational robotics in career decisions after Secondary School students have graduated. It is also recommended that surveys are used in different Brazilian States to understand regional differences in factors of support and barriers that might affect the development of career interest towards technology. New studies that could encompass the specific factors contributing to the development of interest towards technology would contribute to the research on the field.