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Title: User-centered personas for PhysPort
PhysPort is a professional development website for physics faculty to develop their teaching through research-based resources. As part of PhysPort's ongoing research efforts, we conducted interviews with 23 physics faculty from diverse instructional and institutional contexts in the US. From our interviews, we sought common experiences, motivations, and pain points to develop personas--person-like constructs--of physics faculty in the US. Our research focuses on the perspectives of the key users of our site, and thus we take a user-centered perspective rather than a researcher-centered perspective. We developed personas, which are person-like constructs that are developed based on salient characteristics of actual users, that enable designers to create resources to meet actual user needs without designing for the idiosyncrasies of specific users. We present our set of six personas of physics faculty members: a faculty member who is new to improving his teaching; one who takes up his department's practices; one who wants her teaching to feel good; one who is comfortable in her teaching; one who is continuously improving; and one who solves big problems in her department. These personas of physics faculty making changes to their teaching can be used more broadly to improve the design and development of professional development resources and activities for physics faculty.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1726113 1726479
NSF-PAR ID:
10280608
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference 2019
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  3. 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 education 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. 
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  4. Abstract Background

    An instructor’s conceptions of teaching and learning contribute to the establishment of learning environments that may benefit or hinder student learning. Previous studies have defined the continuum of teaching and learning conceptions, ranging from limited to complete, as well as the instructional practices that they help to inform (instructor-centered to student-centered), and the corresponding learning environments that these conceptions and practices establish, ranging from traditional to student-centered. Using the case of one STEM department at a research-intensive, minority serving institution, we explored faculty’s conceptions of teaching and learning and their resulting instructional practices, as well as uncovered their perspectives on the intradepartmental faculty interactions related to teaching. The study participants were drawn from both teaching-focused (called Professors of Teaching, PoTs) and traditional research (whom we call Research Professors, RPs) tenure-track faculty lines to identify whether differences existed amongst these two populations. We used interviews to explore faculty conceptions and analyzed syllabi to unveil how these conceptions shape instructional environments.

    Results

    Overall, PoTs exhibited complete conceptions of teaching and learning that emphasized student ownership of learning, whereas RPs possessed intermediate conceptions that focused more on transmitting knowledge and helping students prepare for subsequent courses. While both PoTs and RPs self-reported the use of active learning pedagogies, RPs were more likely to also highlight the importance of traditional lecture. The syllabi analysis revealed that PoTs enacted more student-centered practices in their classrooms compared to RPs. PoTs appeared to be more intentionally available to support students outside of class and encouraged student collaboration, while RPs focused more on the timeliness of assessments and enforcing more instructor-centered approaches in their courses. Finally, the data indicated that RPs recognized PoTs as individuals who were influential on their own teaching conceptions and practices.

    Conclusions

    Our findings suggest that departments should consider leveraging instructional experts who also possess a disciplinary background (PoTs) to improve their educational programs, both due to their student-centered impacts on the classroom environment and positive influence on their colleagues (RPs). This work also highlights the need for higher education institutions to offer appropriate professional development resources to enable faculty to reflect on their teaching and learning conceptions, aid in their pedagogical evolution, and guide the implementation of these conceptions into practice.

     
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  5. null (Ed.)
    A recent S-STEM award has allowed the engineering program in a rural, liberal arts institution to offer a need-based scholarship program for its students. The engineering program has a number of veteran, underrepresented minority, transfer, and nontraditional students. Many students are also first-generation college students. The institution and engineering program matriculate a number of under-served populations, students who may have needs that are not well understood in the typical engineering education literature. The scholarship program and its associated mentoring and activities will assist workforce development and will also incorporate a number of research avenues to better understand and serve the student population in this unique setting. To apply for the program, students must fill out an application with four 250 – 500 word essay responses relating to their academic progress, perceived barriers to degree completion, and how this award would help them to complete their degree. This study continues work using personas, a method used in human-centered design. Using the first round of scholarship application essays as a source, three personas were developed, one successful applicant, one unsuccessful applicant, and one general applicant. Personas are detailed profiles of a fake person who could reasonably be in each category of interest. In human-centered design, personas are detailed descriptions of likely clients or end-users, developed to help the engineers focus on who they might be designing for. The profiles developed in this study were used to gain insight into which students were likely to choose to apply and which students may be missing out on this opportunity. It is time for another round of applications for this grant and the use of personas will continue and expand as part of this study. Before reviewing applications, the committee will create two personas as ideal candidates instead of developing a standardized rubric. Subsequently, three personas will be developed from the Fall 2020 applications, one for all applicants, one for successful applicants, and one for unsuccessful applicants. These personas will then be compared to the personas created by the application review committee and the personas created from the Fall 2018 applicants. Similarities and differences across the persona groups will be explored to determine whether the applicants are what the reviewers expected and whether the pool of applicants has evolved or remained mostly the same throughout the scholarship program. Review committee members will also be interviewed in a focus group setting to discuss their experiences using common personas rather than standardized rubrics in the application review process. At this time, the applications are not yet due and the analysis has not yet begun. Initial interest for the grant has been strong and we anticipate at least thirty applications for the nineteen available grants. Results presented will include the student profiles and faculty experiences with the use of personas as a metric for reviewing student applications. 
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