skip to main content

Title: Imagining the future interdisciplinary scholar: Exploring interdisciplinary identity development using possible selves.
CONTEXT This exploratory study focuses on an interdisciplinary graduate program in the United Statesthat brings students from science, engineering, technology, or mathematics (STEM)programs together with students in business, policy and governance, natural resources, and other fields to address disaster resilience and risk management. Given the complexity of interdisciplinary collaboration and the need to work across disciplinary boundaries it is increasingly important to develop interdisciplinary capacity in STEM graduate students. PURPOSE OR GOAL The purpose of this exploratory study was to explore how participants conceptualize a possible identity as an interdisciplinary scholar over time in order to characterize the structural and individual factors that might prevent one from developing an interdisciplinary identity.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES) & Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education initiatives in higher education increasingly call for career mentorship opportunities for underrepresented minorities (URM). Researchers (Johnson & Sheppard, 2004; Nelson & Brammer, 2010) note the importance of having faculty to mentor and act as role models for students, often assuming that mentors play a stronger role if they are also from the same cultural background. Native American (NA) faculty members are underrepresented in most fields in colleges and universities, and exceedingly so in engineering. Only 0.2% (N=68) of engineering faculty nationwide identify as Native American (Yoder, 2014). Likewise, NA students are underrepresented in undergraduate (0.6%; N=1853) and graduate (0.1%; N=173) engineering programs. The low percentage in graduate school is of even greater concern as they represent the primary potential pool of new faculty members. Advising and mentorship from those who identify as NA are often considered important components recruiting and retention in STEM fields. For example, Smith and colleagues (2014) found that factors such as communal goal orientation influenced NA engineering students’ motivation and academic performance. However, very few studies account for differences in NA identity or provide a nuanced account of successful NA STEM professional experiences (Page-Reeves et al., 2018). This research paper presents findings from an exploratory study aimed at pinpointing the factors that influence NA entry and persistence in engineering faculty positions. 
    more » « less
  2. Students Engaging In Scientific and Mathematical Interdisciplinary Collaboration (NSF 164375), supports low-income, academically talented Scholars with multiple components including scholarships, paid undergraduate research, service learning, social science and humanities courses, and career development. Scholars will graduate in STEM at a rate of 95%, higher than the rate of eligible, non-participants (62%). High percentages of Scholars attribute increased understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of STEM and growth in on-campus support networks to programming. However, they report variation in the components to which they attribute those gains, with most participants acknowledging the importance of engagement with different program components over time. Scholars report differences in off-campus work, which may have been impacted by the Covid pandemic. While all Scholars starting at the onset of the Covid pandemic were retained in STEM, retention of eligible, non-participants fell from 70% to 38%, indicating the importance of financial and communal support during challenging times. 
    more » « less
  3. Concept maps have emerged as a valid and reliable method for assessing deep conceptual understanding in engineering education within disciplines as well as interdisciplinary knowledge integration across disciplines. Most work on concept maps, however, focuses on undergraduates. In this paper, we use concept maps to examine changes in graduate students’ conceptual understanding and knowledge integration resulting from an interdisciplinary graduate program. Our study context is pair of foundational, team-taught courses in an interdisciplinary Disaster Resilience and Risk Management (DRRM) graduate program. The courses include a 3-hour research course and a 1-hour seminar that aim to build student understanding within and across Urban Affairs and Planning, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geosciences, and Business Information Technology. The courses introduce core principles of DRRM and relevant research methods in these disciplines, and drive students to understand the intersections of these disciplines in the context of planning for and responding to natural and human-made disasters. To understand graduate student growth from disciplinary-based to interdisciplinary scholars, we pose the research questions: 1) In what ways do graduate students’ understandings of DRRM change as a result of their introduction to an interdisciplinary graduate research program? and 2) To what extent and in what ways do concept maps serve as a tool to capture interdisciplinary learning in this context? Data includes pre/post concept maps centered on disaster resilience and risk management, a one-page explanation of the post-concept map, and ethnographic field notes gathered from class and faculty meetings. Pre-concept maps were collected on the first day of class; post-concept maps will be collected as part of the final course assignment. We assess the students’ concept maps for depth of conceptual understanding within disciplines and interdisciplinary competency across disciplines, using the field notes to provide explanatory context. The results presented in this paper support the inclusion of an explanation component to concept maps, and also suggest that concept maps alone may not be the best measure of student understanding of concepts within and across disciplines in this specific context. If similar programs wish to use concept maps as an assessment method, we suggest the inclusion of an explanation component and suggest providing explicit instructions that specify the intended audience. We also suggest using a holistic scoring method, as it is more likely to capture nuances in the concept maps than traditional scoring methods, which focus solely on counting factors like hierarchies and number of cross-links. 
    more » « less
  4. Available attrition statistics for graduate engineering students do not adequately inform current attrition research because they focus on degree completion rather than attrition or early departure; aggregate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students; and reflect out-of-date data. While recently some work has begun to explore doctoral attrition qualitatively, the purpose of this study is to describe current trends in graduate engineering students’ consideration of departure from their programs of study by capturing current numerical data specific to engineering about students’ recent attrition considerations. This is important because, since the last studies were conducted, higher education systems have experienced a global pandemic, economic downturn, and sociopolitical turmoil in the United States. Graduate students (n = 2204) in the U.S. completed a survey. The sample includes master’s (n = 535) and doctorate (n = 1646) degree-seeking students from 27 engineering disciplines and includes U.S. domestic and international populations. A majority of students considered leaving their degree program in the month before they took the survey: nearly 70% of Ph.D. and 39% of master’s students, while 31% of Ph.D. and 16% of master’s students seriously considered leaving their program without their degree. Descriptive statistics provide early departure considerations by engineering discipline, gender identity, race/ethnicity, nationality, and year in program by degree sought. Comparisons between groups are presented for gender, nationality, and career stage. It is essential to have an updated and discipline-specific benchmark of attrition considerations for continued engineering education research purposes, for mentorship, and for administrative purposes. Early departure from graduate school remains a threat to innovation and broadening participation in engineering and the professoriate. 
    more » « less
  5. There is a growing recognition of the need for interdisciplinarity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The purpose of the present study is to identify antecedents, processes, and outcomes of an interdisciplinary, collaborative conference and ongoing collaboration. The Breaking Boundaries in STEM education conference was developed with multiple goals, including fostering collaborative interdisciplinary scientific writing for publication among teacher-scholars who participated in one of three interdisciplinary working groups. One hundred teacher-scholars with interest in STEM education participated in the conference. A comparative study of three working groups from the conference was conducted using a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods. Surveys and behavioral observations were completed at the conference, and phone interviews with attendees were conducted 3-4 months later. Groups varied in their readiness to collaborate. Several themes emerged that might explain why one group was highly productive, one group was moderately productive, and one group was not productive at completing publications after the conference. Groups with a narrower disciplinary span, stronger leadership presence, a paper champion, motivated leader, and a leader with a strong recent history of publishing on the topic, were more ready to collaborate, and they experienced faster, smoother completion of publications. Further research and more passage of time, such as a few years, is needed to determine the quantity, quality, span of disciplinarity, novelty, and generativity of the publications over time. The generalizability of these themes to other interdisciplinary collaborative studies is briefly discussed. 
    more » « less