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Title: Design and testing of a quantitative instrument to evaluate engineering research center participation
This research paper reports the in-progress validation of a quantitative instrument designed to assess the perceived impact of participating in a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC). A multi-institutional consortium composed of ERC education directors, researchers, and evaluators from six NSF-funded ERCs designed easily accessible evaluation instruments and tools that specifically help measure anticipated outcomes for ERC participants for all ERCs. The total effort underway by the consortium includes creating a suite of qualitative and quantitative instruments, an evaluator toolkit, and a user-friendly online platform to host the inventory materials. This paper focuses on the quantitative instrument created to evaluate the experiences of those who engage with a center. It consists of Likert-type questions assessing the impact of the ERC on participants' self-reported: 1) understanding of the ERC, 2) research and communication skills, 3) climate of inclusion, 4) mentorship experiences, and 5) program satisfaction. The instrument also included additional demographic questions and questions to capture STEM-related future plans. The instrument was designed using multiple rounds of design iterations and pilot tests. Separate surveys used by individual ERCs were compiled and categorized to ensure all requirements from the National Science Foundation were met. The web-based survey was administered to six ERCs during the Summer of 2021, Fall of 2021, and Spring of 2022. A total of 549 responses were collected; 535 were used following data cleaning procedures. Sample sizes for each component of the survey varied because some ERCs chose to only use some parts of the new instrument. Exploratory Factor Analyses (EFA) were performed to identify latent factors and items that needed further revision. The following factors emerged from our analyses: 1) ERC general understanding; 2) development of research skills; 3) development of professional skills; 4) experience in the ERC; 5) feelings toward the ERC; 6) Beliefs about the ERC, 7) mentors performance; and 8) mentorship experience. The results provide preliminary evidence that the survey can be used across ERCs. This effort is the first that has been undertaken to develop a shared ERC instrument. The data collected was used to continue in-progress validation. The collaborative nature of this effort can provide ways for ERCs to benchmark impacts of their efforts and share effective practices across ERCs and other similarly structured STEM centers going forward.  more » « less
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Design and Testing of a Quantitative Instrument to Evaluate Engineering Research Center Participation
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National Science Foundation
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