This content will become publicly available on January 1, 2024
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- International journal of engineering education
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- National Science Foundation
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Aim/Purpose: The research reported here aims to demonstrate a method by which novel applications of qualitative data in quantitative research can resolve ceiling effect tensions for educational and psychological research.Background: Self-report surveys and scales are essential to graduate education and social science research. Ceiling effects reflect the clustering of responses at the highest response categories resulting in non-linearity, a lack of variability which inhibits and distorts statistical analyses. Ceiling effects in stress reported by students can negatively impact the accuracy and utility of the resulting data.Methodology: A longitudinal sample example from graduate engineering students’ stress, open-ended critical events, and their early departure from doctoral study considerations demonstrate the utility and improved accuracy of adjusted stress measures to include open-ended critical event responses. Descriptive statistics are used to describe the ceiling effects in stress data and adjusted stress data. The longitudinal stress ratings were used to predict departure considerations in multilevel modeling ANCOVA analyses and demonstrate improved model predictiveness.Contribution: Combining qualitative data from open-ended responses with quantitative survey responses provides an opportunity to reduce ceiling effects and improve model performance in predicting graduate student persistence. Here, we present a method for adjusting stress scale responses by incorporating coded critical events based on the Taxonomy of Life Events, the application of this method in the analysis of stress responses in a longitudinal data set, and potential applications.Findings: The resulting process more effectively represents the doctoral student experience within statistical analyses. Stress and major life events significantly impact engineering doctoral students’ departure considerations.Recommendations for Practitioners: Graduate educators should be aware of students’ life events and assist students in managing graduate school expectations while maintaining progress toward their degree. Recommendation for Researchers: Integrating coded open-ended qualitative data into statistical models can increase the accuracy and representation of the lived student experience. The new approach improves the accuracy and presentation of students’ lived experiences by incorporating qualitative data into longitudinal analyses. The improvement assists researchers in correcting data with ceiling effects for use in longitudinal analyses.Impact on Society: The method described here provides a framework to systematically include open-ended qualitative data in which ceiling effects are present.Future Research: Future research should validate the coding process in similar samples and in samples of doctoral students in different fields and master’s students.more » « less
Engineering students entering graduate school are typically underprepared for the writing tasks involved completing a Ph.D. Previous work has shown that writing attitudes and confidence in writing skills correlate with likelihood of pursuing certain careers and persistence and attrition in the program. However, all work to date has considered graduate students all together: In this study we seek to understand potential differences in the ways that U.S. domestic students and international student (both those studying in the U.S. and those studying in other countries) so that researchers and faculty who teach engineering communication can better tailor their activities and approaches to teaching writing. A survey accessing the students writing approaches, concepts, and self-regulatory efficacy was distributed to engineering graduate students at universities in Japan and Norway. The results of this survey were then compared to the results of a similar survey taken by domestic engineering graduate students and international engineering graduate students studying in the U.S. Findings indicate that there are statistically significant differences between U.S. domestic engineering graduate students with international engineering graduate students for most of the engineering writing attitudinal factors studied, indicating that instructors should begin to tailor approaches differently for individual students. From a research perspective, we will continue to use these findings to investigate and illuminate cultural variations that can influence the writing process.more » « less
We used an opportunity gap framework to analyze the pathways through which students enter into and depart from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees in an R1 higher education institution and to better understand the demographic disparities in STEM degree attainment.
We found disparities in 6-year STEM graduation rates on the basis of gender, race/ethnicity, and parental education level. Using mediation analysis, we showed that the gender disparity in STEM degree attainment was explained by disparities in aspiration: a gender disparity in students’ intent to pursue STEM at the beginning of college; women were less likely to graduate with STEM degrees because they were less likely to intend to pursue STEM degrees. However, disparities in STEM degree attainment across race/ethnicities and parental education level were largely explained by disparities in attrition: persons excluded because of their ethnicity or race (PEERs) and first generation students were less likely to graduate with STEM degrees due to fewer academic opportunities provided prior to college (estimated using college entrance exams scores) and more academic challenges during college as captured by first year GPAs.
Our results reinforce the idea that patterns of departure from STEM pathways differ among marginalized groups. To promote and retain students in STEM, it is critical that we understand these differing patterns and consider structural efforts to support students at different stages in their education.
This work in progress paper focuses on understanding what students in first- year engineering courses understand about who becomes a researcher and if they see themselves as a researcher, or someone who might become a researcher. Specifically, we compare Latinas to other students in this study to explore the origins of differences in later participation. This work has importance and necessity since it has been noted that the national graduation rate for Latinas with a Ph.D. in engineering is very low; only 91 (< 1%) of awardees in 2018- 2019 identified as Latina. Our research investigates the interest of first year engineering students in research, which might illuminate strategies for addressing the underrepresentation of Latinas in national Ph.D. engineering programs. The purpose of this quantitative study is to characterize early perspectives about research, graduate school, and becoming a researcher. A statistical analysis of the results from a cross-sectional survey was completed. A principal component analysis extracted the following constructs: (1) research self-efficacy, (2) engineering research identity, and (3) perceived cultural compatibility. Self-reported demographics (gender, race/ethnicity, college generation, first year on campus) were collected during the survey and used to group respondents during the analysis. The study population includes all students enrolled in a first-year engineering course for the Fall 2022 (n=215) at the University of New Mexico, a public R1, Hispanic- serving institution. The students were from the following engineering disciplines: Chemical & Biological, Civil, Computer Science, Electrical & Computer, Mechanical, and Nuclear. A regression analysis is used to compare Latinas' perceptions and intentions to students who are well-represented (Asian or White men) in engineering. We hypothesize that the constructs examined in this study explain variance in research persistence. This research has significance if we are to attain more diverse faculty for the emerging student population which requires an increase in the number of Latinas graduating with a doctoral degree and continuing into academia.more » « less
This Research Full Paper presents two examples of doctoral engineering attrition. To date, little research has been conducted on the many compounding factors that lead to attrition in graduate programs. In this paper, we present the narratives of two doctoral PhD students, Kelsey and Amy, who were deciding on departing from the engineering PhD. These narratives embody a deeper investigation of academic self-concept development through graduate school, with a focus on the decision-making processes to continue in the PhD program or decide to depart with a Master’s degree. At the time of the interviews, both participants were still enrolled in their programs, but one had definite plans to depart and left shortly after the interview. This study is one of the first that highlights the role of the Master's degree as an off-ramp from the engineering doctorate and lends insight to narratives surrounding attrition in engineering: Despite academic success in their courses and successful research progress, these participants decided to depart even after passing significant milestones such as qualifying exams. This research presents the beginning of a larger research project with a goal of generating a more complete narrative of the attrition process for the students, with an explicit focus on Master's-level departure.more » « less