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Title: Engineering Awareness at Design Challenge Exhibits
Awareness of a STEM discipline is a complex construct to operationalize; a learner’s awareness of a discipline is sometimes viewed through the lens of personal identity, use of relevant discourse, or knowledge of career pathways. This research proposes defining engineering awareness through a learner’s associations with engineering practices - fundamental processes involved in engineering such as identifying criteria and constraints, testing designs, diagnosing issues and assessing goal completion. In this study, a learner’s engineering awareness was determined by examining 1) their ability to name or identify the engineering-related practices and processes they used, 2) associating those practices and processes with engineering, and 3) reporting that those were practices and processes that engineers use. This research was conducted in a large science center in the Pacific Northwest and capitalizes on science center exhibits as unique family learning environments in the interest of promoting and strengthening family engagement and engineering learning. Participant selection focused on girls ages 9–14 and their families, ensuring the inclusion and influence of members of Latino communities (Spanish speaking and bilingual English/Spanish). Data were collected at three different design challenge exhibits. Engineering awareness was measured using three items on a visitor survey administered following a groups’ exhibit experience and more » through interview responses which were coded for mention of the words design, engineering and a list of associated practices. Participants were given the option of completing the survey and interview in English or Spanish. The study found that participants overwhelmingly reported that they were doing engineering at exhibits; however, in open-ended responses from the interview, most groups simply implied or named specific engineering design practices rather than use the term engineering. The words building, testing, and improving designs were reported more frequently than words such as defining a problem, making a plan, or completing a challenge. The type of responses about using engineering practices varied by type of exhibit which suggests that different exhibits might encourage respondents to engage in, or recognise that they are engaging in, some engineering design practices more than others. This work proposes an operational definition to measure learners’ awareness of engaging in engineering practices. This definition and the instruments and methods developed to measure awareness in this way are contributions to the larger conversations on this topic in the field. Findings from this study offer insights into how learners identify engineering-related practices and how they associate those practices with engineering. As part of a five-year, federally funded project, the result of this work informs the development of new design challenge exhibits, and the instruments and methods will be used in a second research study to explore how these new exhibits and the addition of staff facilitation impact visitor use and awareness of engineering practices. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1811617
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10338669
Journal Name:
2021 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Background/Context:

    Computer programming is rarely accessible to K–12 students, especially for those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Middle school age is a transitioning time when adolescents are more likely to make long-term decisions regarding their academic choices and interests. Having access to productive and positive knowledge and experiences in computer programming can grant them opportunities to realize their abilities and potential in this field.

    Purpose/Focus of Study:

    This study focuses on the exploration of the kind of relationship that bilingual Latinx students developed with themselves and computer programming and mathematics (CPM) practices through their participation in a CPM after-school program, first as students and then as cofacilitators teaching CPM practices to other middle school peers.

    Setting:

    An after-school program, Advancing Out-of-School Learning in Mathematics and Engineering (AOLME), was held at two middle schools located in rural and urban areas in the Southwest. It was designed to support an inclusive cultural environment that nurtured students’ opportunities to learn CPM practices through the inclusion of languages (Spanish and English), tasks, and participants congruent to students in the program. Students learned how to represent, design, and program digital images and videos using a sequence of 2D arrays of hexadecimal numbers with Python on a Raspberrymore »Pi computer. The six bilingual cofacilitators attended Levels 1 and 2 as students and were offered the opportunity to participate as cofacilitators in the next implementation of Level 1.

    Research Design:

    This longitudinal case study focused on analyzing the experiences and shifts (if any) of students who participated as cofacilitators in AOLME. Their narratives were analyzed collectively, and our analysis describes the experiences of the cofacilitators as a single case study (with embedded units) of what it means to be a bilingual cofacilitator in AOLME. Data included individual exit interviews of the six cofacilitators and their focus groups (30–45 minutes each), an adapted 20-item CPM attitude 5-point Likert scale, and self-report from each of them. Results from attitude scales revealed cofacilitators’ greater initial and posterior connections to CPM practices. The self-reports on CPM included two number lines (0–10) for before and after AOLME for students to self-assess their liking and knowledge of CPM. The numbers were used as interview prompts to converse with students about experiences. The interview data were analyzed qualitatively and coded through a contrast-comparative process regarding students’ description of themselves, their experiences in the program, and their perception of and relationship toward CPM practices.

    Findings:

    Findings indicated that students had continued/increased motivation and confidence in CPM as they engaged in a journey as cofacilitators, described through two thematic categories: (a) shifting views by personally connecting to CPM, and (b) affirming CPM practices through teaching. The shift in connecting to CPM practices evolved as students argued that they found a new way of learning mathematics, in that they used mathematics as a tool to create videos and images that they programmed by using Python while making sense of the process bilingually (Spanish and English). This mathematics was viewed by students as high level, which in turned helped students gain self-confidence in CPM practices. Additionally, students affirmed their knowledge and confidence in CPM practices by teaching them to others, a process in which they had to mediate beyond the understanding of CPM practices. They came up with new ways of explaining CPM practices bilingually to their peers. In this new role, cofacilitators considered the topic and language, and promoted a communal support among the peers they worked with.

    Conclusions/Recommendations:

    Bilingual middle school students can not only program, but also teach bilingually and embrace new roles with nurturing support. Schools can promote new student roles, which can yield new goals and identities. There is a great need to redesign the school mathematics curriculum as a discipline that teenagers can use and connect with by creating and finding things they care about. In this way, school mathematics can support a closer “fit” with students’ identification with the world of mathematics. Cofacilitators learned more about CPM practices by teaching them, extending beyond what was given to them, and constructing new goals that were in line with a sophisticated knowledge and shifts in the practice. Assigned responsibility in a new role can strengthen students’ self-image, agency, and ways of relating to mathematics.

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  2. 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, preparation 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 canmore »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. 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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
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  5. Background/Context: After-school programs that focus on integrating computer programming and mathematics in authentic environments are seldomly accessible to students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly bilingual Latina students in rural contexts. Providing a context that broadens Latina students’ participation in mathematics and computer programming requires educators to carefully examine how verbal and nonverbal language is used to interact and to position students as they learn new concepts in middle school. This is also an important stage for adolescents because they are likely to make decisions about their future careers in STEM. Having access to discourse and teaching practices that invite students to participate in mathematics and computer programming affords them opportunities to engage with these fields. Purpose/Focus of Study: This case study analyzes how small-group interactions mediated the positionings of Cindy, a bilingual Latina, as she learned binary numbers in an after-school program that integrated computer programming and mathematics (CPM). Setting: The Advancing Out-of-School Learning in Mathematics and Engineering (AOLME) program was held in a rural bilingual (Spanish and English) middle school in the Southwest. The after-school program was designed to provide experiences for primarily Latinx students to learn how to integrate mathematics with computer programming using Raspberry Pimore »and Python as a platform. Our case study explores how Cindy was positioned as she interacted with two undergraduate engineering students who served as facilitators while learning binary numbers with a group of three middle school students. Research Design: This single intrinsic case focused on exploring how small-group interactions among four students mediated Cindy’s positionings as she learned binary numbers through her participation in AOLME. Data sources included twelve 90-minute video sessions and Cindy’s journal and curriculum binder. Video logs were created, and transcripts were coded to describe verbal and nonverbal interactions among the facilitators and Cindy. Analysis of select episodes was conducted using systemic functional linguistics (SFL), specifically language modality, to identify how positioning took place. These episodes and positioning analysis describe how Cindy, with others, navigated the process of learning binary numbers under the stereotype that female students are not as good at mathematics as male students. Findings: From our analysis, three themes that emerged from the data portray Cindy’s experiences learning binary numbers. The major themes are: (1) Cindy’s struggle to reveal her understanding of binary numbers in a competitive context, (2) Cindy’s use of “fake it until you make it” to hide her cognitive dissonance, and (3) the use of Spanish and peers’ support to resolve Cindy’s understanding of binary numbers. The positioning patterns observed help us learn how, when Cindy’s bilingualism was viewed and promoted as an asset, this social context worked as a generative axis that addressed the challenges of learning binary numbers. The contrasting episodes highlight the facilitators’ productive teaching strategies and relations that nurtured Cindy’s social and intellectual participation in CPM. Conclusions/Recommendations: Cindy’s case demonstrates how the facilitator’s teaching, and participants’ interactions and discourse practices contributed to her qualitatively different positionings while she learned binary numbers, and how she persevered in this process. Analysis of communication acts supported our understanding of how Cindy’s positionings underpinned the discourse; how the facilitators’ and students’ discourse formed, shaped, or shifted Cindy’s positioning; and how discourse was larger than gender storylines that went beyond classroom interactions. Cindy’s case reveals the danger of placing students in “struggle” instead of a “productive struggle.” The findings illustrated that when Cindy was placed in struggle when confronting responding moves by the facilitator, her “safe” reaction was hiding and avoiding. In contrast, we also learned about the importance of empathetic, nurturing supporting responses that encourage students’ productive struggle to do better. We invite instructors to notice students’ hiding or avoiding and consider Cindy’s case. Furthermore, we recommend that teachers notice their choice of language because this is important in terms of positioning students. We also highlight Cindy’s agency as she chose to take up her friend’s suggestion to “fake it” rather than give up.« less