skip to main content


Title: Aspects of Inquiry Applied in Japan and Australia
The author reflects on his experience as a participant in the Professional Development Program (PDP) in 2005 and 2006 and how he has implemented elements of inquiry learning in his curriculum. He taught courses in Japan and Australia and touches on his perception of how the students in his units learned, and what the effects of (learning) culture are on inquiry learning. Through his experiences, the author found that in the first stages of a learning process, inquiry learning can help to engage and motivate students. In the end stage of learning, inquiry learning can help students to demonstrate their ability to think and work independently. One should carefully consider the learning background of students before implementing aspects of inquiry learning, as it can be affected by the culture in which they grew up.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1743117
NSF-PAR ID:
10484107
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Editor(s):
Seagroves, Scott; Barnes, Austin; Metevier, Anne; Porter, Jason; Hunter, Lisa
Publisher / Repository:
Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators (ISEE)
Date Published:
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. There are significant disparities between the conferring of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) bachelor’s degrees to minoritized groups and the number of STEM faculty that represent minoritized groups at four-year predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Studies show that as of 2019, African American faculty at PWIs have increased by only 2.3% in the last 20 years. This study explores the ways in which this imbalance affects minoritized students in engineering majors. Our research objective is to describe the ways in which African American students navigate their way to success in an engineering program at a PWI where the minoritized faculty representation is less than 10%. In this study, we define success as completion of an undergraduate degree and matriculation into a Ph.D. program. Research shows that African American students struggle with feeling like the “outsider within” in graduate programs and that the engineering culture can permeate from undergraduate to graduate programs. We address our research objective by conducting interviews using navigational capital as our theoretical framework, which can be defined as resilience, academic invulnerability, and skills. These three concepts come together to denote the journey of an individual as they achieve success in an environment not created with them in mind. Navigational capital has been applied in education contexts to study minoritized groups, and specifically in engineering education to study the persistence of students of color. Research on navigational capital often focuses on how participants acquire resources from others. There is a limited focus on the experience of the student as the individual agent exercising their own navigational capital. Drawing from and adapting the framework of navigational capital, this study provides rich descriptions of the lived experiences of African American students in an engineering program at a PWI as they navigated their way to academic success in a system that was not designed with them in mind. This pilot study took place at a research-intensive, land grant PWI in the southeastern United States. We recruited two students who identify as African American and are in the first year of their Ph.D. program in an engineering major. Our interview protocol was adapted from a related study about student motivation, identity, and sense of belonging in engineering. After transcribing interviews with these participants, we began our qualitative analysis with a priori coding, drawing from the framework of navigational capital, to identify the experiences, connections, involvement, and resources the participants tapped into as they maneuvered their way to success in an undergraduate engineering program at a PWI. To identify other aspects of the participants’ experiences that were not reflected in that framework, we also used open coding. The results showed that the participants tapped into their navigational capital when they used experiences, connections, involvement, and resources to be resilient, academically invulnerable, and skillful. They learned from experiences (theirs or others’), capitalized on their connections, positioned themselves through involvement, and used their resources to achieve success in their engineering program. The participants identified their experiences, connections, and involvement. For example, one participant who came from a blended family (African American and White) drew from the experiences she had with her blended family. Her experiences helped her to understand the cultures of Black and White people. She was able to turn that into a skill to connect with others at her PWI. The point at which she took her familial experiences to use as a skill to maneuver her way to success at a PWI was an example of her navigational capital. Another participant capitalized on his connections to develop academic invulnerability. He was able to build his connections by making meaningful relationships with his classmates. He knew the importance of having reliable people to be there for him when he encountered a topic he did not understand. He cultivated an environment through relationships with classmates that set him up to achieve academic invulnerability in his classes. The participants spoke least about how they used their resources. The few mentions of resources were not distinct enough to make any substantial connection to the factors that denote navigational capital. The participants spoke explicitly about the PWI culture in their engineering department. From open coding, we identified the theme that participants did not expect to have role models in their major that looked like them and went into their undergraduate experience with the understanding that they will be the distinct minority in their classes. They did not make notable mention of how a lack of minority faculty affected their success. Upon acceptance, they took on the challenge of being a racial minority in exchange for a well-recognized degree they felt would have more value compared to engineering programs at other universities. They identified ways they maneuvered around their expectation that they would not have representative role models through their use of navigational capital. Integrating knowledge from the framework of navigational capital and its existing applications in engineering and education allows us the opportunity to learn from African American students that have succeeded in engineering programs with low minority faculty representation. The future directions of this work are to outline strategies that could enhance the path of minoritized engineering students towards success and to lay a foundation for understanding the use of navigational capital by minoritized students in engineering at PWIs. Students at PWIs can benefit from understanding their own navigational capital to help them identify ways to successfully navigate educational institutions. Students’ awareness of their capacity to maintain high levels of achievement, their connections to networks that facilitate navigation, and their ability to draw from experiences to enhance resilience provide them with the agency to unleash the invisible factors of their potential to be innovators in their collegiate and work environments. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    In recent years, studies in engineering education have begun to intentionally integrate disability into discussions of diversity, inclusion, and equity. To broaden and advocate for the participation of this group in engineering, researchers have identified a variety of factors that have kept people with disabilities at the margins of the field. Such factors include the underrepresentation of disabled individuals within research and industry; systemic and personal barriers, and sociocultural expectations within and beyond engineering education-related contexts. These findings provide a foundational understanding of the external and environmental influences that can shape how students with disabilities experience higher education, develop a sense of belonging, and ultimately form professional identities as engineers. Prior work examining the intersections of disability identity and professional identity is limited, with little to no studies examining the ways in which students conceptualize, define, and interpret disability as a category of identity during their undergraduate engineering experience. This lack of research poses problems for recruitment, retention, and inclusion, particularly as existing studies have shown that the ways in which students perceive and define themselves in relation to their college major is crucial for the development of a professional engineering identity. Further, due to variation in defining ‘disability’ across national agencies (e.g., the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Justice) and disability communities (with different models of disability), the term “disability” is broad and often misunderstood, frequently referring to a group of individuals with a wide range of conditions and experiences. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to gain deeper insights into the ways students define disability and disability identity within their own contexts as they develop professional identities. Specifically, we ask the following research question: How do students describe and conceptualize non-apparent disabilities? To answer this research question, we draw from emergent findings from an on-going grounded theory exploration of professional identity formation of undergraduate civil engineering students with disabilities. In this paper, we focus our discussion on the grounded theory analyses of 4 semi-structured interviews with participants who have disclosed a non-apparent disability. Study participants consist of students currently enrolled in undergraduate civil engineering programs, students who were initially enrolled in undergraduate civil engineering programs and transferred to another major, and students who have recently graduated from a civil engineering program within the past year. Sensitizing concepts emerged as findings from the initial grounded theory analysis to guide and initiate our inquiry: 1) the medical model of disability, 2) the social model of disability, and 3) personal experience. First, medical models of disability position physical, cognitive, and developmental difference as a “sickness” or “condition” that must be “treated”. From this perspective, disability is perceived as an impairment that must be accommodated so that individuals can obtain a dominantly-accepted sense of normality. An example of medical models within the education context include accommodations procedures in which students must obtain an official diagnosis in order to access tools necessary for academic success. Second, social models of disability position disability as a dynamic and fluid identity that consists of a variety of physical, cognitive, or developmental differences. Dissenting from assumptions of normality and the focus on individual bodily conditions (hallmarks of the medical model), the social model focuses on the political and social structures that inherently create or construct disability. An example of a social model within the education context includes the universal design of materials and tools that are accessible to all students within a given course. In these instances, students are not required to request accommodations and may, consequently, bypass medical diagnoses. Lastly, participants referred to their own life experiences as a way to define, describe, and consider disability. Fernando considers his stutter to be a disability because he is often interrupted, spoken over, or silenced when engaging with others. In turn, he is perceived as unintelligent and unfit to be a civil engineer by his peers. In contrast, David, who identifies as autistic, does not consider himself to be disabled. These experiences highlight the complex intersections of medical and social models of disability and their contextual influences as participants navigate their lives. While these sensitizing concepts are not meant to scope the research, they provide a useful lens for initiating research and provides markers on which a deeper, emergent analysis is expanded. Findings from this work will be used to further explore the professional identity formation of undergraduate civil engineering students with disabilities. These findings will provide engineering education researchers and practitioners with insights regarding the ways individuals with disabilities interpret their in- and out-of-classroom experiences and navigate their disability identities. For higher education, broadly, this work aims to reinforce the complex and diverse nature of disability experience and identity, particularly as it relates to accommodations and accessibility within the classroom, and expand the inclusiveness of our programs and institutions. 
    more » « less
  3. The culture within engineering colleges and departments has been historically quiet when considering social justice issues. Often the faculty in those departments are less concerned with social issues and are primarily focused on their disciplines and the concrete ways that they can make impacts academically and professionally in their respective arena’s. However, with the social climate of the United States shifting ever more towards a politically charged climate, and current events, particularly the protests against police brutality in recent years, faculty and students are constantly inundated with news of injustices happening in our society. The murder of George Floyd on May 25th 2020 sent shockwaves across the United States and the world. The video captured of his death shared across the globe brought everyone’s attention to the glaringly ugly problem of police brutality, paired with the COVID-19 pandemic, and US election year, the conditions were just right for a social activist movement to grow to a size that no one could ignore. Emmanuel Acho spoke out, motivated by injustices seen in the George Floyd murder, initially with podcasts and then by writing his book “Uncomfortable Converstations with a Black Man” [1]. In his book he touched on various social justice issues such as: racial terminology (i.e., Black or African American), implicit biases, white privilege, cultural appropriation, stereotypes (e.g., the “angry black man”), racial slurs (particularly the n-word), systemic racism, the myth of reverse racism, the criminal justice system, the struggles faced by black families, interracial families, allyship, and anti-racism. Students and faculty at Anonymous University felt compelled to set aside the time to meet and discuss this book in depth through the video conferencing client Zoom. In these meetings diverse facilitators were tasked with bringing the topics discussed by Acho in his book into conversation and pushing attendees of these meetings to consider those topics critically and personally. In an effort to avoid tasking attendees with reading homework to be able to participate in these discussions, the discussed chapter of the audiobook version of Acho’s book was played at the beginning of each meeting. Each audiobook chapter lasted between fifteen and twenty minutes, after which forty to forty-five minutes were left in the hour-long meetings to discuss the content of the chapter in question. Efforts by students and faculty were made to examine how some of the teachings of the book could be implemented into their lives and at Anonymous University. For broader topics, they would relate the content back to their personal lives (e.g., raising their children to be anti-racist and their experiences with racism in American and international cultures). Each meeting was recorded for posterity in the event that those conversations would be used in a paper such as this. Each meeting had at least one facilitator whose main role was to provide discussion prompts based on the chapter and ensure that the meeting environment was safe and inclusive. Naturally, some chapters address topics that are highly personal to some participants, so it was vital that all participants felt comfortable and supported to share their thoughts and experiences. The facilitator would intervene if the conversation veered in an aggressive direction. For example, if a participant starts an argument with another participant in a non-constructive manner, e.g., arguing over the definition of ethnicity, then the facilitator will interrupt, clear the air to bring the group back to a common ground, and then continue the discussion. Otherwise, participants were allowed to steer the direction of the conversation as new avenues of discussion popped up. These meetings were recorded with the goal of returning to these conversations and analyzing the conversations between attendees. Grounded theory will be used to first assess the most prominent themes of discussion between attendees for each meeting [2]. Attendees will be contacted to expressly ask their permission to have their words and thoughts used in this work, and upon agreement that data will begin to be processed. Select attendees will be asked to participate in focus group discussions, which will also be recorded via Zoom. These discussions will focus around the themes pulled from general discussion and will aim to dive deeper into the impact that this experience has had on them as either students or faculty members. A set of questions will be developed as prompts, but conversation is expected to evolve organically as these focus groups interact. These sessions will be scheduled for an hour, and a set of four focus groups with four participants are expected to participate for a total of sixteen total focus group participants. We hope to uncover how this experience changed the lives of the participants and present a model of how conversations such as this can promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and access activities amongst faculty and students outside of formal programs and strategic plans that are implemented at university, college, or departmental levels. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Mechanobiology is an interdisciplinary field that aims to understand how physical forces impact biological systems. Enhancing our knowledge of mechanobiology has become increasingly important for understanding human disease and developing novel therapeutics. There is a societal need to teach diverse students principles of mechanobiology so that we may collectively expand our knowledge of this subject and apply new principles to improving human health. Toward this goal, we designed, implemented, and evaluated a hands-on, inquiry-based learning (IBL) module to teach students principles of cell–biomaterial interactions. This module was designed to be hosted in two 3-h sessions, over two consecutive days. During this time, students learned how to synthesize and mechanically test biomaterials, culture bacteria cells, and assess effects of matrix stiffness on bacteria cell proliferation. Among the 73 students who registered to participate in our IBL mechanobiology module, 40 students completed both days and participated in this study. A vast majority of the participants were considered underrepresented minority (URM) students based on race/ethnicity. Using pre/post-tests, we found that students experienced significant learning gains of 33 percentage points from completing our IBL mechanobiology module. In addition to gaining knowledge of mechanobiology, validated pre/post-surveys showed that students also experienced significant improvements in scientific literacy. Instructors may use this module as described, increase the complexity for an undergraduate classroom assignment, or make the module less complex for K-12 outreach. As presented, this IBL mechanobiology module effectively teaches diverse students principles of mechanobiology and scientific inquiry. Deploying this module, and similar IBL modules, may help advance the next generation of mechanobiologists.

     
    more » « less
  5. This Research Full paper focuses on perceptions and experiences of freshman and sophomore engineering students when playing an online serious engineering game that was designed to improve engineering intuition and knowledge of statics. Use of serious educational engineering games has increased in engineering education to help students increase technical competencies in engineering disciplines. However, few have investigated how these engineering games are experienced by the students; how games influence students' perceptions of learning, or how these factors may lead to inequitable perspectives among diverse populations of students. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions, appeal, and opinions about the efficacy of educational online games among a diverse population of students in an engineering mechanics statics course. It was hypothesized that compared to majority groups (e.g., men, White), women of color who are engineering students would experience less connections to the online educational game in terms of ease of use and level of frustration while playing. It is believed that these discordant views may negatively influence the game's appeal and efficacy towards learning engineering in this population of students. Design/Method: The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) is expanded in this study, where the perspectives of women of colour (Latinx, Asian and African American) engineering students are explored. The research approach employed in this study is a mixed-method sequential exploratory design, where students first played the online engineering educational game, then completed a questionnaire, followed by participation in a focus group. Responses were initially analyzed through open and magnitude coding approaches to understand whether students thought these educational games reflected their personal culture. Results: Preliminary results indicate that though the majority of the students were receptive to using the online engineering software for their engineering education, merely a few intimated that they would use this software for engineering exam or technical job interview preparation. A level-one categorical analysis identified a few themes that comprised unintended preservation of inequality in favor of students who enjoyed contest-based education and game technology. Competition-based valuation of presumed mastery of course content fostered anxiety and intimidation among students, which caused some to "game the game" instead of studying the material, to meet grade goals. Some students indicated that they spent more time (than necessary) to learn the goals of the game than engineering content itself, suggesting a need to better integrate course material while minimizing cognitive effort in learning to navigate the game. Conclusions: Preliminary results indicate that engineering software's design and the way is coupled with course grading and assessment of learning outcomes, affect student perceptions of the technology's acceptance, usefulness, and ease of use as a "learning tool." Students were found to have different expectations of serious games juxtaposed software/apps designed for entertainment. Conclusions also indicate that acceptance of inquiry-based educational games in a classroom among diverse populations of students should clearly articulate and connect the game goals/objectives with class curriculum content. Findings also indicate that a multifaceted schema of tools, such as feedback on game challenges, and explanations for predictions of the game should be included in game/app designs. 
    more » « less