skip to main content

Title: Effects of Research and Internship Experiences on Engineering Task Self-Efficacy on Engineering Students Through an Intersectional Lens.
High-impact academic experiences, particularly research and internship experiences, have positive impacts for engineering students on engineering task self-efficacy (ETSE), a measure of students’ perception of their ability to perform technical engineering tasks. However, under- represented racial/ethnic minority students (URM) and women in engineering are found to have relatively lower self-perceptions across several academic and professional self-efficacy measures. Previous studies examined the impact of research and internship experiences on ETSE for students categorized by gender and URM status separately. The current study explores the impact of these experiences on ETSE for the intersection between these two identity categories. This study found that both non-URM and URM women that participated in research and internship experiences had lower ETSE scores than non-URM and URM men, respectively. However, URM women that participated in both research and internship experiences had a statistically similar ETSE score to non-URM men that had not participated in either. This study uses multiple linear regression to measure the association between engineering internships and student’s reported ETSE (effects of participating in research were not found to be significant across identities). Preliminary findings indicate that differences in ETSE between internship participants and non-participants are highest for URM women when compared to their counterparts. more » Consistent with the literature, this research finds that there is a greater positive effect in ETSE scores, as a result of participation in both research and internship experiences, for URM women than their majority counterparts. These preliminary results provide a foundation for further studies to causally investigate the link between academic experiences and self-efficacy levels for students who are underrepresented in engineering programs. Future implications of this work include the creation of targeted intervention efforts to increase support for all URM students’ access and participation in research and internship experiences. Additionally, this work seeks to challenge the bias towards monolithic interpretations of women and URM engineering students as separate categories and encourage intersectional perspectives when analyzing data to produce more inclusive results. Key Concepts: intersectionality, self-efficacy, engineering task self-efficacy, learning outcomes, academic pathways, inclusion, engineering experiences, research, internships « less
Authors:
; ; ;  
Award ID(s):
1636442
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10076370
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, June 24-27, 2018. Salt Lake City, Utah.
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The value of internship experiences for engineering students is widely discussed in the literature. With this analysis, we seek to contribute knowledge addressing 1) the prevalence of internship experiences amongst engineering students drawn from a large, multi-institutional, nationally-representative sample, 2) if the likelihood of having an engineering internship experiences is equitable amongst various student identities, and 3) what additional factors influence the likelihood of a student having an internship experience, such as field of study and institution type. Data were drawn from a 2015 multi-institutional nationally representative survey of engineering juniors and seniors, excluding one institution with a mandatory co-opmore »program (n = 5530 from 26 institutions). A z-test was used to analyze differences in internship participation rates related to academic cohort (e.g., junior, senior), gender, underrepresented minority (URM) status, first-generation, and low-income status, as well as a subset of identities at the intersection of these groups (gender + URM; first-generation + low-income). A logistic regression model further examined factors such as GPA, engineering task self-efficacy, field of engineering, and institution type. We found that amongst the students in our dataset, 64.7% of the seniors had “worked in a professional engineering environment as an intern/co-op” (41.1% of juniors, 64.7% of 5th years). Significantly less likely (p<0.05) to have internship experiences were men compared to women (52.9% vs 58.3%), URM students compared to their majority counterparts (41.5% vs 56.8%), first-generation students compared to continuing (47.6% vs 57.2%), and low-income students compared to higher-income peers (46.2% vs 57.4%). Examined intersectional identities significantly less likely to have an internship were URM men (37.5%) and first-generation low-income students (42.0%), while non-URM women (60.5%) and continuing high-income students (58.2%) were most likely to report having an internship. Results from the logistic regression model indicate that significant factors are cohort (junior vs senior), GPA, engineering task self-efficacy, and engineering field. When controlling for the other variables in the model, gender, URM, first-generation, and low-income status remain significant; however, the interaction effect between these identities is not significant in the full model. Institution type did not have much impact. Having a research experience was not a significant factor in predicting the likelihood of having an internship experience, although studying abroad significantly increased the odds. Amongst engineering fields, industrial and civil engineering students were the most likely to have an internship, while aerospace and materials engineering students were the least likely. Full results and discussion will be presented in the paper. This analysis provides valuable information for a variety of stakeholders. For engineering programs, it is useful to benchmark historic students’ rates of internship participation against a multi-institutional, nationally representative dataset. For academic advisors and career services professionals, it is useful to understand in which fields an internship is common to be competitive on the job market, and which fields have fewer opportunities or prioritize research experiences. Ultimately, for those in higher education and workforce development it is vital to understand which identities, and intersectional identities, are accessing internship experiences as a pathway into the engineering workforce.« less
  2. First-generation (FG) and/or low-income (LI) engineering student populations are of particular interest in engineering education. However, these populations are not defined in a consistent manner across the literature or amongst stakeholders. The intersectional identities of these groups have also not been fully explored in most quantitative-based engineering education research. This research paper aims to answer the following three research questions: (RQ1) How do students’ demographic characteristics and college experiences differ depending on levels of parent educational attainment (which forms the basis of first-generation definitions) and family income? (RQ2) How do ‘first-generation’ and ‘low-income’ definitions impact results comparing to their continuing-generationmore »and higher-income peers? (RQ3) How does considering first-generation and low-income identities through an intersectional lens deepen insight into the experiences of first-generation and low-income groups? Data were drawn from a nationally representative survey of engineering juniors and seniors (n = 6197 from 27 U.S. institutions). Statistical analyses were conducted to evaluate respondent differences in demographics (underrepresented racial/ethnic minority (URM), women, URM women), college experiences (internships/co-ops, having a job, conducting research, and study abroad), and engineering task self-efficacy (ETSE), based on various definitions of ‘first generation’ and ‘low income’ depending on levels of parental educational attainment and self-reported family income. Our results indicate that categorizing a first-generation student as someone whose parents have less than an associate’s degree versus less than a bachelor’s degree may lead to different understandings of their experiences (RQ1). For example, the proportion of URM students is higher among those whose parents have less than an associate’s degree than among their “associate’s degree or more” peers (26% vs 11.9%). However, differences in college experiences are most pronounced among students whose parents have less than a bachelor’s degree compared with their “bachelor’s degree or more” peers: having a job to help pay for college (55.4% vs 47.3%), research with faculty (22.7% vs 35.0%), and study abroad (9.0% vs 17.3%). With respect to differences by income levels, respondents are statistically different across income groups, with fewer URM students as family income level increases. As family income level increases, there are more women in aggregate, but fewer URM women. College experiences are different for the middle income or higher group (internship 48.4% low and lower-middle income vs 59.0% middle income or higher; study abroad 11.2% vs 16.4%; job 58.6% vs 46.8%). Despite these differences in demographic characteristics and college experiences depending on parental educational attainment and family income, our dataset indicates that the definition does not change the statistical significance when comparing between first-generation students and students who were continuing-generation by any definition (RQ2). First-generation and low-income statuses are often used as proxies for one another, and in this dataset, are highly correlated. However, there are unique patterns at the intersection of these two identities. For the purpose of our RQ3 analysis, we define ‘first-generation’ as students whose parents earned less than a bachelor’s degree and ‘low-income’ as low or lower-middle income. In this sample, 68 percent of students were neither FG nor LI while 11 percent were both (FG&LI). On no measure of demographics or college experience is the FG&LI group statistically similar to the advantaged group. Low-income students had the highest participation in working to pay for college, regardless of parental education, while first-generation students had the lower internship participation than low-income students. Furthermore, being FG&LI is associated with lower ETSE compared with all other groups. These results suggest that care is required when applying the labels “first-generation” and/or “low-income” when considering these groups in developing institutional support programs, in engineering education research, and in educational policy. Moreover, by considering first-generation and low-income students with an intersectional lens, we gain deeper insight into engineering student populations that may reveal potential opportunities and barriers to educational resources and experiences that are an important part of preparation for an engineering career.« less
  3. This study examines the relationship between participation in extracurricular college activities and its possible impact on students’ career interests in entrepreneurship and innovation. This work draws from the Engineering Majors Survey (EMS), focusing on innovation self-efficacy and how it may be impacted by participation in various extracurricular college activities. The term self-efficacy as developed by Albert Bandura is defined as “people’s judgment of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances” (Bandura, 1986, p.391). Innovation self-efficacy is a variable consisting of six items that correspond to Dyer’s five discovery skills seen asmore »important for innovative behavior. In order to investigate the relationship between participation in certain activities and innovation self-efficacy, the 20 activities identified in the EMS survey were grouped thematically according to their relevance to entrepreneurship-related topics. Students were divided into two groups using K-means cluster analysis according to their innovation selfefficacy (ISE.6) score. Cluster one (C1) contained the students with higher ISE.6 scores, Cluster two (C2) included the students with lower innovation self-efficacy scores. This preliminary research focused on descriptive analyses while also looking at different background characteristics such as gender, academic status and underrepresented minority status (URM). The results show that students in C1 (high ISE.6) have significantly greater interest in starting an organization (78.1%) in comparison to C2 students (21.9%) (X²=81.11, p=.000, Cramer’s V= .124). At the same time, male students reported significantly higher ISE.6 scores (M=66.70, SD=17.53) than female students (M=66.70, SD=17.53) t(5192)=-5.220 p=.000 and stronger intentions to start an organization than female students (15% and 6.1 % respectively). Cluster affiliation representing innovation self-efficacy as well as gender seems to play a role when looking at career interest in entrepreneurship. According to Social Cognitive Career Theory, self-efficacy is influenced by learning experiences. In this work activities referring to hands-on activities in entrepreneurship and innovation are highly correlated with ISE.6 (r=.206, p=.000), followed by non-hands-on exposure to entrepreneurship and innovation. At the same time, students in C1 participated almost twice as often in hands-on activities in entrepreneurship and innovation (28.6%) as compared to students in C2 (15.2%). Interestingly in C1, there were no gender differences in participation in hands-on activities in entrepreneurship and innovation. Overall, female students (M=4.66, SD=2.5) participated in significantly more activities than male students (M=3.9, SD=2.64), t(5192)=9.65 p=.000. All in all, these results reveal interesting insights into the potential benefits of taking part in innovation and entrepreneurship-related activities and their impact on students’ innovation self-efficacy and interests in corresponding careers.« less
  4. Need/Motivation (e.g., goals, gaps in knowledge) The ESTEEM implemented a STEM building capacity project through students’ early access to a sustainable and innovative STEM Stepping Stones, called Micro-Internships (MI). The goal is to reap key benefits of a full-length internship and undergraduate research experiences in an abbreviated format, including access, success, degree completion, transfer, and recruiting and retaining more Latinx and underrepresented students into the STEM workforce. The MIs are designed with the goals to provide opportunities for students at a community college and HSI, with authentic STEM research and applied learning experiences (ALE), support for appropriate STEM pathway/career, preparationmore »and confidence to succeed in STEM and engage in summer long REUs, and with improved outcomes. The MI projects are accessible early to more students and build momentum to better overcome critical obstacles to success. The MIs are shorter, flexibly scheduled throughout the year, easily accessible, and participation in multiple MI is encouraged. ESTEEM also establishes a sustainable and collaborative model, working with partners from BSCS Science Education, for MI’s mentor, training, compliance, and building capacity, with shared values and practices to maximize the improvement of student outcomes. New Knowledge (e.g., hypothesis, research questions) Research indicates that REU/internship experiences can be particularly powerful for students from Latinx and underrepresented groups in STEM. However, those experiences are difficult to access for many HSI-community college students (85% of our students hold off-campus jobs), and lack of confidence is a barrier for a majority of our students. The gap between those who can and those who cannot is the “internship access gap.” This project is at a central California Community College (CCC) and HSI, the only affordable post-secondary option in a region serving a historically underrepresented population in STEM, including 75% Hispanic, and 87% have not completed college. MI is designed to reduce inequalities inherent in the internship paradigm by providing access to professional and research skills for those underserved students. The MI has been designed to reduce barriers by offering: shorter duration (25 contact hours); flexible timing (one week to once a week over many weeks); open access/large group; and proximal location (on-campus). MI mentors participate in week-long summer workshops and ongoing monthly community of practice with the goal of co-constructing a shared vision, engaging in conversations about pedagogy and learning, and sustaining the MI program going forward. Approach (e.g., objectives/specific aims, research methodologies, and analysis) Research Question and Methodology: We want to know: How does participation in a micro-internship affect students’ interest and confidence to pursue STEM? We used a mixed-methods design triangulating quantitative Likert-style survey data with interpretive coding of open-responses to reveal themes in students’ motivations, attitudes toward STEM, and confidence. Participants: The study sampled students enrolled either part-time or full-time at the community college. Although each MI was classified within STEM, they were open to any interested student in any major. Demographically, participants self-identified as 70% Hispanic/Latinx, 13% Mixed-Race, and 42 female. Instrument: Student surveys were developed from two previously validated instruments that examine the impact of the MI intervention on student interest in STEM careers and pursuing internships/REUs. Also, the pre- and post (every e months to assess longitudinal outcomes) -surveys included relevant open response prompts. The surveys collected students’ demographics; interest, confidence, and motivation in pursuing a career in STEM; perceived obstacles; and past experiences with internships and MIs. 171 students responded to the pre-survey at the time of submission. Outcomes (e.g., preliminary findings, accomplishments to date) Because we just finished year 1, we lack at this time longitudinal data to reveal if student confidence is maintained over time and whether or not students are more likely to (i) enroll in more internships, (ii) transfer to a four-year university, or (iii) shorten the time it takes for degree attainment. For short term outcomes, students significantly Increased their confidence to continue pursuing opportunities to develop within the STEM pipeline, including full-length internships, completing STEM degrees, and applying for jobs in STEM. For example, using a 2-tailed t-test we compared means before and after the MI experience. 15 out of 16 questions that showed improvement in scores were related to student confidence to pursue STEM or perceived enjoyment of a STEM career. Finding from the free-response questions, showed that the majority of students reported enrolling in the MI to gain knowledge and experience. After the MI, 66% of students reported having gained valuable knowledge and experience, and 35% of students spoke about gaining confidence and/or momentum to pursue STEM as a career. Broader Impacts (e.g., the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM; development of a diverse STEM workforce, enhanced infrastructure for research and education) The ESTEEM project has the potential for a transformational impact on STEM undergraduate education’s access and success for underrepresented and Latinx community college students, as well as for STEM capacity building at Hartnell College, a CCC and HSI, for students, faculty, professionals, and processes that foster research in STEM and education. Through sharing and transfer abilities of the ESTEEM model to similar institutions, the project has the potential to change the way students are served at an early and critical stage of their higher education experience at CCC, where one in every five community college student in the nation attends a CCC, over 67% of CCC students identify themselves with ethnic backgrounds that are not White, and 40 to 50% of University of California and California State University graduates in STEM started at a CCC, thus making it a key leverage point for recruiting and retaining a more diverse STEM workforce.« less
  5. Introduction and Theoretical Frameworks Our study draws upon several theoretical foundations to investigate and explain the educational experiences of Black students majoring in ME, CpE, and EE: intersectionality, critical race theory, and community cultural wealth theory. Intersectionality explains how gender operates together with race, not independently, to produce multiple, overlapping forms of discrimination and social inequality (Crenshaw, 1989; Collins, 2013). Critical race theory recognizes the unique experiences of marginalized groups and strives to identify the micro- and macro-institutional sources of discrimination and prejudice (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). Community cultural wealth integrates an asset-based perspective to our analysis of engineering educationmore »to assist in the identification of factors that contribute to the success of engineering students (Yosso, 2005). These three theoretical frameworks are buttressed by our use of Racial Identity Theory, which expands understanding about the significance and meaning associated with students’ sense of group membership. Sellers and colleagues (1997) introduced the Multidimensional Model of Racial Identity (MMRI), in which they indicated that racial identity refers to the “significance and meaning that African Americans place on race in defining themselves” (p. 19). The development of this model was based on the reality that individuals vary greatly in the extent to which they attach meaning to being a member of the Black racial group. Sellers et al. (1997) posited that there are four components of racial identity: 1. Racial salience: “the extent to which one’s race is a relevant part of one’s self-concept at a particular moment or in a particular situation” (p. 24). 2. Racial centrality: “the extent to which a person normatively defines himself or herself with regard to race” (p. 25). 3. Racial regard: “a person’s affective or evaluative judgment of his or her race in terms of positive-negative valence” (p. 26). This element consists of public regard and private regard. 4. Racial ideology: “composed of the individual’s beliefs, opinions and attitudes with respect to the way he or she feels that the members of the race should act” (p. 27). The resulting 56-item inventory, the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity (MIBI), provides a robust measure of Black identity that can be used across multiple contexts. Research Questions Our 3-year, mixed-method study of Black students in computer (CpE), electrical (EE) and mechanical engineering (ME) aims to identify institutional policies and practices that contribute to the retention and attrition of Black students in electrical, computer, and mechanical engineering. Our four study institutions include historically Black institutions as well as predominantly white institutions, all of which are in the top 15 nationally in the number of Black engineering graduates. We are using a transformative mixed-methods design to answer the following overarching research questions: 1. Why do Black men and women choose and persist in, or leave, EE, CpE, and ME? 2. What are the academic trajectories of Black men and women in EE, CpE, and ME? 3. In what way do these pathways vary by gender or institution? 4. What institutional policies and practices promote greater retention of Black engineering students? Methods This study of Black students in CpE, EE, and ME reports initial results from in-depth interviews at one HBCU and one PWI. We asked students about a variety of topics, including their sense of belonging on campus and in the major, experiences with discrimination, the impact of race on their experiences, and experiences with microaggressions. For this paper, we draw on two methodological approaches that allowed us to move beyond a traditional, linear approach to in-depth interviews, allowing for more diverse experiences and narratives to emerge. First, we used an identity circle to gain a better understanding of the relative importance to the participants of racial identity, as compared to other identities. The identity circle is a series of three concentric circles, surrounding an “inner core” representing one’s “core self.” Participants were asked to place various identities from a provided list that included demographic, family-related, and school-related identities on the identity circle to reflect the relative importance of the different identities to participants’ current engineering education experiences. Second, participants were asked to complete an 8-item survey which measured the “centrality” of racial identity as defined by Sellers et al. (1997). Following Enders’ (2018) reflection on the MMRI and Nigrescence Theory, we chose to use the measure of racial centrality as it is generally more stable across situations and best “describes the place race holds in the hierarchy of identities an individual possesses and answers the question ‘How important is race to me in my life?’” (p. 518). Participants completed the MIBI items at the end of the interview to allow us to learn more about the participants’ identification with their racial group, to avoid biasing their responses to the Identity Circle, and to avoid potentially creating a stereotype threat at the beginning of the interview. This paper focuses on the results of the MIBI survey and the identity circles to investigate whether these measures were correlated. Recognizing that Blackness (race) is not monolithic, we were interested in knowing the extent to which the participants considered their Black identity as central to their engineering education experiences. Combined with discussion about the identity circles, this approach allowed us to learn more about how other elements of identity may shape the participants’ educational experiences and outcomes and revealed possible differences in how participants may enact various points of their identity. Findings For this paper, we focus on the results for five HBCU students and 27 PWI students who completed the MIBI and identity circle. The overall MIBI average for HBCU students was 43 (out of a possible 56) and the overall MIBI scores ranged from 36-51; the overall MIBI average for the PWI students was 40; the overall MIBI scores for the PWI students ranged from 24-51. Twenty-one students placed race in the inner circle, indicating that race was central to their identity. Five placed race on the second, middle circle; three placed race on the third, outer circle. Three students did not place race on their identity circle. For our cross-case qualitative analysis, we will choose cases across the two institutions that represent low, medium and high MIBI scores and different ranges of centrality of race to identity, as expressed in the identity circles. Our final analysis will include descriptive quotes from these in-depth interviews to further elucidate the significance of race to the participants’ identities and engineering education experiences. The results will provide context for our larger study of a total of 60 Black students in engineering at our four study institutions. Theoretically, our study represents a new application of Racial Identity Theory and will provide a unique opportunity to apply the theories of intersectionality, critical race theory, and community cultural wealth theory. Methodologically, our findings provide insights into the utility of combining our two qualitative research tools, the MIBI centrality scale and the identity circle, to better understand the influence of race on the education experiences of Black students in engineering.« less