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  1. Despite limited success in broadening participation in engineering with rural and Appalachian youth, there remain challenges such as misunderstandings around engineering careers, misalignments with youth’s sociocultural background, and other environmental barriers. In addition, middle school science teachers may be unfamiliar with engineering or how to integrate engineering concepts into science lessons. Furthermore, teachers interested in incorporating engineering into their curriculum may not have the time or resources to do so. The result may be single interventions such as a professional development workshop for teachers or a career day for students. However, those are unlikely to cause major change or sustained interest development. To address these challenges, we have undertaken our NSF ITEST project titled, Virginia Tech Partnering with Educators and Engineers in Rural Schools (VT PEERS). Through this project, we sought to improve youth awareness of and preparation for engineering related careers and educational pathways. Utilizing regular engagement in engineering-aligned classroom activities and culturally relevant programming, we sought to spark an interest with some students. In addition, our project involves a partnership with teachers, school districts, and local industry to provide a holistic and, hopefully, sustainable influence. By engaging over time we aspired to promote sustainability beyond this NSF projectmore »via increased teacher confidence with engineering related activities, continued integration within their science curriculum, and continued relationships with local industry. From the 2017-2020 school years the project has been in seven schools across three rural counties. Each year a grade level was added; that is, the teachers and students from the first year remained for all three years. Year 1 included eight 6th grade science teachers, year 2 added eight 7th grade science teachers, and year 3 added three 8th grade science teachers and a career and technology teacher. The number of students increased from over 500 students in year 1 to over 2500 in year 3. Our three industry partners have remained active throughout the project. During the third and final year in the classrooms, we focused on the sustainable aspects of the project. In particular, on how the intervention support has evolved each year based on data, support requests from the school divisions, and in scaffolding “ownership” of the engineering activities. Qualitative data were used to support our understanding of teachers’ confidence to incorporate engineering into their lessons plans and how their confidence changed over time. Noteworthy, our student data analysis resulted in an instrument change for the third year; however due to COVID, pre and post data was limited to schools who taught on a semester basis. Throughout the project we have utilized the ITEST STEM Workforce Education Helix model to support a pragmatic approach of our research informing our practice to enable an “iterative relationship between STEM content development and STEM career development activities… within the cultural context of schools, with teachers supported by professional development, and through programs supported by effective partnerships.” For example, over the course of the project, scaffolding from the University leading interventions to teachers leading interventions occurred.« less
  2. In this Lessons Learned paper, we describe the implementation of an on-campus workshop focused on supporting faculty as they develop metacognitive interventions for their educational contexts. This on-campus workshop at Duke University included faculty from engineering as well as other faculty from campus and was developed and implemented by members of the Skillful Learning Institute Team. First, we describe the purpose and intent of the workshop by the host institution (Duke University) and the workshop development team (Skillful-Learning Institute Team). We then provide the workshop overview across the two day period, including a description of instruction provided and structured breakout sessions. Next, we provide a lessons learned section from the perspectives of the host institution and the workshop developers. Finally, we offer insights into how those lessons learned are being incorporated into the development of future workshops. By providing the two perspectives, our lessons learned should help those who invite speakers in for faculty development and those who are creating faculty development activities.
  3. In this Lessons Learned paper, we describe the implementation of an on-campus workshop focused on supporting faculty as they develop metacognitive interventions for their educational contexts. This on-campus workshop at Duke University included faculty from engineering as well as other faculty from campus and was developed and implemented by members of the Skillful Learning Institute Team. First, we describe the purpose and intent of the workshop by the host institution (Duke University) and the workshop development team (Skillful-Learning Institute Team). We then provide the workshop overview across the two day period, including a description of instruction provided and structured breakout sessions. Next, we provide a lessons learned section from the perspectives of the host institution and the workshop developers. Finally, we offer insights into how those lessons learned are being incorporated into the development of future workshops. By providing the two perspectives, our lessons learned should help those who invite speakers in for faculty development and those who are creating faculty development activities.
  4. Middle school is a pivotal time for career choice, and research is rich with studies on how students perceive engineering, as well as corresponding intervention strategies to introduce younger students to engineering and inform their conceptions of engineering. Unfortunately, such interventions are typically not designed in culturally relevant ways. Consequently, there continues to be a lack of students entering engineering and a low level of diverse candidates for this profession. The purpose of this study was to explore how students in rural and Appalachian Virginia conceive of engineering before and after engagement with culturally relevant hands-on activities in the classroom. We used student responses to the Draw an Engineer Test (DAET), consisting of a drawing and several open-ended prompts administered before and after the set of engagements, to answer our research questions related to changes in students’ conceptions of engineering. We used this study to develop recommendations for teachers for the use of such engineering engagement practices and how to best assess their outcomes, including looking at the practicality of the DAET. Overall, we found evidence that our classroom engagements positively influenced students’ conceptions of engineering in these settings.
  5. Barriers to broadening participation in engineering to rural and Appalachian youth include misalignment with family and community values, lack of opportunities, and community misperceptions of engineering. While single interventions are unlikely to stimulate change in these areas, more sustainable interventions that are co-designed with local relevance appear promising. Through our NSF ITEST project, we test the waters of this intervention model through partnership with school systems and engineering industry to implement a series of engineering-themed, standards-aligned lessons for the middle school science classroom. Our mixed methods approach includes collection of interview and survey data from administrators, teachers, engineers, and university affiliates as well as observation and student data from the classroom. We have utilized theory from learning science and organizational collaboration to structure and inform our analysis and explore the impact of our project. The research is guided by the following questions: RQ 1: How do participants conceptualize engineering careers? How and why do such perceptions shift throughout the project? RQ 2: What elements of the targeted intervention affect student motivation towards engineering careers specifically with regard to developing competencies and ability beliefs regarding engineering? RQ 3: How can strategic collaboration between K12 and industry promote a shift in teacher’smore »conceptions of engineers and increased self-efficacy in building and delivering engineering curriculum? RQ 4: How do stakeholder characteristics, perceptions, and dynamics affect the likelihood of sustainability in strategic collaborations between K12 and industry stakeholders? How do prevailing institutional and collaborative conditions mediate sustainability? In year one, we involved nine 6th grade teachers, three engineering companies, and over 500 students. In year two, we expanded to include 7th grade teachers in our partner schools and the new students moving up to 6th grade. Lessons aligned with students' everyday experiences and connected to industry. For example, students created bouncy balls and tested their effectiveness on materials produced from partner manufacturing facilities. From preliminary analysis of data collected in the first two years of the project (e.g, the Draw an Engineer Test and teacher interviews), we have begun to see evidence of positive student and teacher impact. Additionally, our application of collaborative theory to the investigation of stakeholder perceptions of the project has revealed implications for partnering with school systems and engineering industry. For example, key individuals at each organization may serve as important conduits for program communication and collaborative work.« less
  6. This research paper describes how engineering juniors and seniors perceive the influence of socializers on their post-graduation career planning. Grounded in Expectancy x Value Theory (EVT), this qualitative investigation is part of a sequential mixed-methods study that included two survey phases and an interview phase. An exploratory analysis of 72 interview excerpts revealed four dominant socializer groups, namely, family, peers, university related individuals, and work related individuals, as well as three distinct areas of socializer influence: thinking about specific jobs, job exploration in general, and choosing whether to pursue further education. A closer look showed that while parents, peers, professors, and supervisors were all important to students’ career plans, the type of influence each had tended to differ. In-depth examples of socializer influence and their impact on students’ job related decisions are shared in this paper. The results are insightful for researchers, university and industry stakeholders, and students.