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Title: Evaluating the Fairness of the Undergraduate Supports Survey: A DIF Analysis of Gender and Year-in-School
It is well established that access to social supports is essential for engineering students’ persistence and yet access to supports varies across groups. Understanding the differential supports inherent in students’ social networks and then working to provide additional needed supports can help the field of engineering education become more inclusive of all students. Our work contributes to this effort by examing the reliability and fairness of a social capital instrument, the Undergraduate Supports Survey (USS). We examined the extent to which two scales were reliable across ability levels (level of social capital), gender groups and year-in-school. We conducted two item response theory (IRT) models using a graded response model and performed differential item functioning (DIF) tests to detect item differences in gender and year-in-school. Our results indicate that most items have acceptable to good item discrimination and difficulty. DIF analysis shows that multiple items report DIF across gender groups in the Expressive Support scale in favor of women and nonbinary engineering students. DIF analysis shows that year-in-school has little to no effect on items, with only one DIF item. Therefore, engineering educators can use the USS confidently to examine expressive and instrumental social capital in undergraduates across year-in-school. Our work can be used by the engineering education research community to identify and address differences in students’ access to support. We recommend that the engineering education community works to be explicit in their expressive and instrumental support. Future work will explore the measurement invariance in Expressive Support items across gender.  more » « less
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SEFI Annual Conference, TU Dublin, IE
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National Science Foundation
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