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Background: There has been a dearth of research on intersectional identities in STEM, including the fields of computing and engineering. In computing education research, much work has been done on broadening participation, but there has been little investigation into how the field of computer science (CS) presents opportunities for students with strong intersectional identities. This study explores the strengths and connections among the unique identities and the symbiotic relationships that elementary Latina students hold in CS identity attainment. Purpose: The aim of this article is to better understand how predominantly low-income, multilingual Latina students experience identity development through the lens of diverse group membership. We examine how young Latinas, through their participation in a yearlong culturally and linguistically responsive CS curriculum, leverage their intersecting identities to rewrite the formula of what a computer scientist is and can be, leaving space to include and invite other strong identities as well. Research Design: An explanatory sequential mixed-methods design was used that analyzed data from predominantly low-income, multilingual Latinas in upper elementary grades, including pre- and post-CS identity surveys (N = 50) delivered before and after implementation of the curriculum, and eight individual semi-structured student interviews. Findings: We found that Latina students developed significantly stronger identification with the field of CS from the beginning to the end of the school year with regard to their experiences with CS, perception of themselves as computer scientists, family support for CS and school, and friend support for CS and school. Interviews revealed that perception of their CS ability greatly influenced identification with CS and that girls’ self-perceptions stemmed from their school, cultural, and home learning environments. Conclusion: Our results highlight the wealth of resources that Latinas bring to the classroom through their home- and community-based assets, which are characterized by intersecting group membership. Students did not report on the intersection between language and CS identity development, which warrants further investigation.more » « less
Abstract: Developing student interest is critical to supporting student learning in computer science. Research indicates that student interest is a key predictor of persistence and achievement. While there is a growing body of work on developing computing identities for diverse students, little research focuses on early exposure to develop multilingual students’ interest in computing. These students represent one of the fastest growing populations in the US, yet they are dramatically underrepresented in computer science education. This study examines identity development of upper elementary multilingual students as they engage in a year-long computational thinking curriculum, and follows their engagement across multiple settings (i.e., school, club, home, community). Findings from pre- and -post surveys of identity showed significant differences favoring students’ experiences with computer science, their perceptions of computer science, their perceptions of themselves as computer scientists, and their family support for computer science. Findings from follow-up interviews and prior research suggest that tailored instruction provides opportunities for connections to out-of-school learning environments with friends and family that may shift students’ perceptions of their abilities to pursue computer science and persist when encountering challenges.more » « less
Although participation rates vary by field, Latiné and women engineers continue to be underrepresented across most segments of the engineering workforce. Research has examined engagement and persistence of Latiné and White women in engineering; however, few studies have investigated how race, ethnicity, gender, and institutional setting interact to produce inequities in the field.
To address these limitations, we examined how Latina, Latino, and White women and men students' engagement in engineering was informed by their intersecting identities and within their institutional setting over the course of a year.
We interviewed 32 Latina, Latino, and White women and men undergraduate engineering students attending 11 different predominantly White and Hispanic Serving Institutions. Thematic analysis was used to interpret themes from the data.
Our findings illustrate how Latinas, Latinos, and White women developed a strong engineering identity, which was critical to their engagement in engineering. Students' engineering identity was grounded in their perceived fit within engineering culture, sense of purpose for pursuing their degree, and resistance to the dominance of White male culture in engineering. Latinas described unique forms of gendered, racialized marginalization in engineering, whereas Latinas and Latinos highlighted prosocial motivations for completing their degree.
Findings suggest that institutional cultures, norms, and missions are critical to broadening participation of Latinas, Latinos, and White women in engineering. Disrupting White male culture, leveraging Latiné students' cultural wealth, and counter‐framing traditional recruitment pitches for engineering appear to be key in these efforts.
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.more » « less
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.
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 Raspberry 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.
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 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.
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.