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  1. This work-in-progress research paper stems from a larger project where we are developing and gathering validity evidence for an instrument to measure undergraduate students' perceptions of support in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The refinement of our instrument functions to extend, operationalize, and empirically test the model of co-curricular support (MCCS). The MCCS is a conceptual framework of student support that explains how a student's interactions with the professional, academic and social systems within a college could influence their success more broadly in an undergraduate STEM degree program. Our goal is to create an instrument that functions diagnostically to help colleges effectively allocate resources for the various financial, physical, and human capital support provided to undergraduate students in STEM. While testing the validity of our newly developed instrument, an analysis of the data revealed differences in perceived support among College of Engineering (COE) and College of Science (COS) students. In this work-in-progress paper, we examine these differences at one institution using descriptive statistics and Welch's t-tests to identify trends and patterns of support among different student groups.
  2. This research base paper examines students who are the first in their families to attend college. Our research seeks to understand the role students’ funds of knowledge makes in first-generation college students’ undergraduate experience. Funds of knowledge are the set of formal/informal knowledge and skills that students learn through family, friends, and communities outside of academic institutions. This paper reports funds of knowledge themes relevant to first-generation college students in engineering and the process of gathering validity evidence to support the funds of knowledge themes. Using ethnographic and interview data, six themes emerged: connecting experiences, community networks, tinkering knowledge, perspective taking, reading people, and mediational skills. Pilot data collected at two institutions were used to run exploratory factor analysis to verify the underlying theoretical structures among the themes. Results of the exploratory factor analysis found that almost all items reliably loaded onto their respective constructs. The funds of knowledge identified in this study are not an exhaustive account, nevertheless uncovering these hidden assets can support first-generation college students to see their experiences as equally valuable knowledge in engineering. We are currently in an ongoing process of collecting a second dataset to perform a confirmatory factor analysis, i.e., the next phasemore »of the validation process for survey instrument development.« less
  3. First-generation college students have entered the spotlight of educational research and reform. This shift in perspective has been covered in popular media, for example, in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s series entitled “Engine of Inequality,” which analyzes the challenges facing first-generation college students. However, engineering programs have been slower in responding to this new emphasis on first-generation college students, perhaps assuming that the lack of success of underrepresented groups is a result of deficiencies in the students’ background and preparation. Our research challenges this assumption by explicitly investigating the connections between first-generation engineering students’ success and their experiences within higher education, using a large-scale quantitative survey. Whereas the deficiency perspective focuses on what these students lack and how they need to change themselves in order to adapt to engineering undergraduate curricula, this study seeks to understand how first-generation college student’s funds of knowledge (i.e., family and cultural knowledge developed by growing up in poor and/or working households) can be leveraged in their engineering work and the factors that contribute to their success in engineering. Using ethnographic data of first-generation college students in engineering, from prior work, seven themes were created to capture aspects of students’ funds of knowledge. The themesmore »were classified as follows: community networks, lived experiences, tinkering knowledge from home, tinkering knowledge from work, perspective taking, reading people, and translation among people. To date, the funds of knowledge themes have been validated, at the first level, using exploratory factor analysis with a broad range of engineering students from first-years to fourth-year of higher at two institutions, one in the Midwest and one in the mountain region. Convenience sampling was used to test and validate the funds of knowledge survey constructs. We are currently in our second data collection process. The large-scale survey will be administered to upperclassman and alumni at five participating institutions across the United States, i.e., in a large public polytechnic, small selective private polytechnic, large land grant, large sub-urban public, and large public universities.« less
  4. Traditionally, engineering culture has limited rather than fostered diversity in engineering. To address this persistent issue, we examine how diverse students identify with engineering and navigate the culture of engineering. We define diversity not by making a priori categorizations according to traditional demographic information (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.), but instead by investigating the variation in students’ attitudinal profiles on a host of affective measures. Using these measures, we develop an identification of large, “normative” groups of engineers as well as “non-normative” students who emerge as having distinct attitudinal profiles. This mixed methods study investigates the intersectionality of engineering students' personal identities to understand: How do non-normative groups in engineering form an engineering identity and navigate a culture dominated by limited diversity? The focus of this paper is on the first phase this project, in which students' identities, motivation, psychological traits, perceived supports and barriers to engineering, and other background information is being quantitatively assessed. Pilot survey data were collected from participants enrolled in second semester first-year engineering programs across three institutions (n=374). We used topological data analysis (TDA) to create normative and non-normative attitudinal profiles of respondents. As a relatively new and powerful set of analytic methods, TDAmore »clusters variegated data to understand an underlying structure, or topology, which emerges from the data. Our preliminary results show definite patterns which we then break down according to students' self-identified demographics. Additionally, a subset of participants who completed our quantitative instrument were interviewed about their experiences in and identification with engineering (n=7). Initial qualitative data analysis indicate that students who reside at intersectional boundaries of diversity have difficulty finding similar role models in engineering and often find themselves expending additional effort when compared to their peers to establish themselves in both engineering and non-engineering communities. Results of this quantitative and qualitative work were used to further refine the quantitative instrument that is to be used in subsequent phases of the project.« less