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his project is supported by an NSF BPE grant. Career choices, such as engineering, are influenced by a number of factors including personal interest, ability, competence beliefs, prior work-related experience, and financial and social supports. However, financial and social support, a particularly significant factor for rural students’ career decisions, is often overlooked in the literature exploring career choice. Moreover, little work has explored how communities serve as key influencers for supporting or promoting engineering as a career choice. Therefore, the goal of this study is to explore the ways in which communities provide support to students deciding to pursue engineering as a college major. To better understand how students from selected rural area high schools choose engineering as a major, we conducted focus group discussions consisting of 4-6 students each from selected schools to talk collectively about their high school experiences and their choice to major in engineering. Choosing focus group participants from different schools enabled us to elicit tacit perceptions and beliefs that may not be evident when students from the same community talk with one another. That is, as students share their experiences across schools, they may recognize differences in their experiences that, though otherwise unconscious or unacknowledged, proved significant in their choice of college and major. We expect that certain community programs and the individuals involved will have some influence on students’ decisions to study engineering at [University Name]. We anticipate that the results will yield two key outcomes: 1. A holistic understanding of the communities that effectively support and encourage engineering major choice for rural students. 2. Locally driven, contextually relevant recommendations for policies and programs that would better enable economically disadvantaged, rural schools in southwestern Virginia to support engineering as a career choice for high school students. By understanding the ways some economically-disadvantaged rural communities support engineering as a career choice and linking a broad spectrum of rural communities together around this issue, this project will broaden participation in engineering by increasing support for students from these areas. By shifting our focus from students to communities, this research broadens our understanding of career choice by capturing the perspectives of community members (including not only school personnel, but also community leaders, students’ families, business owners and others) who often play a key role in students’ decisions, particularly in rural communities. Our research will bring these voices into the conversation to help scholars learn from and respond to these essential community perspectives. In doing so, we will provide a more nuanced model of engineering career choice that can then be explored in other rural contexts. This work thus contributes to the research on career choice, rural education, and engineering education. © 2018 American Society for Engineering Educationmore » « less
Purpose This paper aims to examine the role of school stakeholders (e.g. advisory board members, school administrators, parents, teachers and school board members) at a 99% black academy in promoting the achievement and broadening participation of high school black students in engineering career pathways. Design/methodology/approach The authors followed a qualitative case study design to explore the experiences of school stakeholders (e.g. students, district and school personnel and community partners) associated with the implementation of the career academy (Stake, 2006; Yin, 1994). Findings The authors found that the school relied heavily on the support of the community in the form of an advisory board – including university faculty and industry leaders – to actively develop culturally responsive strategies (e.g. American College Test preparation, work-based learning opportunities) to ensure the success of black students interested in pursuing career pathways in engineering. Thus, school stakeholders in the academy of engineering served as authentic leaders who inspired academy students by serving as role models and setting examples through what they do as engineering professionals. It was quite evident that the joy and fulfillment that these authentic leaders gained from using their talents directly or indirectly inspired students in the academy to seek out and cultivate the talents they are good at and passionate about as well (Debebe, 2017). Moreover, the career academy provided environmental or sociocultural conditions that promoted the development of learners’ gifts and talents (Plucker and Barab, 2005). Within that context, the goals of career academy school stakeholders were to support students in the discovery of what they are good at doing and to structure their educational experiences to cultivate their gifts into talents. Research limitations/implications It is also important to acknowledge that this study is not generalizable to the one million career academy students across the nation. Yet, the authors believe researchers should continue to examine the career academy advisory board as a source of capital for engaging and preparing diverse learners for success post-high school. Further research is needed to investigate how advisory boards support students’ in school and postsecondary outcomes, particularly for diverse students. Practical implications The authors highlight promising practices for schools to implement in establishing a diverse talent pipeline. Social implications On a theoretical level, the authors found important insights into the possibility of black students benefiting from a culturally responsive advisory board that provided social and cultural capital (e.g. aspirational, navigational and social) resources for their success. Originality/value While prior researchers have studied the positive impact of teachers in career academies as a contributor to social capital for students (Lanford and Maruco, 2019) and what diverse students bring to the classroom as a form of capital Debebe(Yosso, 2005), research has not identified the role of the advisory board (in its efforts to connect the broader community) as a vehicle for equipping ethnically and racially diverse students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds with social capital. Within that sense, the authors believe the advisory board at Stanton Academy relied on what the authors term local community capital to provide resources and supports for black students’ successful transition from high school into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related college and career pathways.more » « less
Broadening participation in engineering is critical given the gap between the nation’s need for engineering graduates and its production of them. Efforts to spark interest in engineering among PreK-12 students have increased substantially in recent years as a result. However, past research has demonstrated that interest is not always sufficient to help students pursue engineering majors, particularly for rural students. In many rural communities, influential adults (family, friends, teachers) are often the primary influence on career choice, while factors such as community values, lack of social and cultural capital, limited course availability, and inadequate financial resources act as potential barriers. To account for these contextual factors, this project shifts the focus from individual students to the communities to understand how key stakeholders and organizations support engineering as a major choice and addresses the following questions: RQ1. What do current undergraduate engineering students who graduated from rural high schools describe as influences on their choice to attend college and pursue engineering as a post-secondary major? RQ2. How does the college choice process differ for rural students who enrolled in a 4-year university immediately after graduating from high school and those who transferred from a 2-year institution? RQ3. How do community members describe the resources that serve as key supports as well as the barriers that hinder support in their community? RQ4. What strategies do community members perceive their community should implement to enhance their ability to support engineering as a potential career choice? RQ5. How are these supports transferable or adaptable by other schools? What community-level factors support or inhibit transfer and adaptation? To answer the research questions, we employed a three-phase qualitative study. Phase 1 focused on understanding the experiences and perceptions of current [University Name] students from higher-producing rural schools. Analysis of focus group and interview data with 52 students highlighted the importance of interest and support from influential adults in students’ decision to major in engineering. One key finding from this phase was the importance of community college for many of our participants. Transfer students who attended community college before enrolling at [University Name] discussed the financial influences on their decision and the benefits of higher education much more frequently than their peers. In Phase 2, we used the findings from Phase 1 to conduct interviews within the participants’ home communities. This phase helped triangulate students’ perceptions with the perceptions and practices of others, and, equally importantly, allowed us to understand the goals, attitudes, and experiences of school personnel and local community members as they work with students. Participants from the students’ home communities indicated that there were few opportunities for students to learn more about engineering careers and provided suggestions for how colleges and universities could be more involved with students from their community. Phase 3, scheduled for Spring 2020, will bring the findings from Phases 1 and 2 back to rural communities via two participatory design workshops. These workshops, designed to share our findings and foster collaborative dialogue among the participants, will enable us to explore factors that support or hinder transfer of findings and to identify policies and strategies that would enhance each community’s ability to support engineering as a potential career choice.more » « less
A major goal in Engineering training in the U.S. is to continue to both grow and diversify the field. Project- and service-based forms of experiential, problem-based learning are often implemented with this as a goal, and Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) High is one of the more well-regarded and widely implemented. Yet, the evidence based on if and how participation in such programs shapes student intentions and commitment to STEM pathways is currently limited, most especially for pre-college programming. This study asks: How do high school students’ engineering mindsets and their views of engineering/engineers change as they participate in project–service learning (as implemented through an EPICS High curriculum)? This study employed a mixed method design, combining pre- and post-test survey data that were collected from 259 matched students (63% minority, 43% women) enrolling in EPICS High (total of 536 completed pre-tests, 375 completed post-tests) alongside systematic ethnographic analysis of participant observation data conducted in the same 13 socioeconomically diverse schools over a two-year period. Statistical analyses showed that participants score highly on engineering-related concepts and attitudes at both pre- and post-test. These did not change significantly as a result of participation. However, we detected nuanced but potentially important changes in student perspectives and meaning, such as shifting perceptions of engineering and gaining key transversal skills. The value of participation to participants was connected to changes in the meaning of commitments to pursue engineering/STEM.more » « less
Determining the root causes of persistent underrepresentation of different subpopulations in engineering remains a continued challenge. Because place‐based variation of resource distribution is not random and because school and community contexts influence high school outcomes, considering variation across those contexts should be paramount in broadening participation research.
This study takes a macroscopic systems view of engineering enrollments to understand variation across one state's public high school rates of engineering matriculation.
This study uses a dataset from the Virginia Longitudinal Data System that includes all students who completed high school from a Virginia public school from 2007 to 2014 (
N= 685,429). We explore geographic variation in four‐year undergraduate engineering enrollment as a function of gender, race/ethnicity, and economically disadvantaged status. Additionally, we investigate the relationship between characteristics of the high school and community contexts and undergraduate engineering enrollment across Virginia's high schools using regression analysis. Results
Our findings illuminate inequality in enrollment in engineering programs at four‐year institutions across high schools by gender, race, and socioeconomic status (and the intersections among those demographics). Different high schools have different engineering enrollment rates among students who attend four‐year postsecondary institutions. We show strong associations between high schools' engineering enrollment rates and four‐year institution enrollment rates as well as moderate associations for high schools' community socioeconomic status.
Strong systemic forces need to be overcome to broaden participation in engineering. We demonstrate the insights that state longitudinal data systems can illuminate in engineering education research.