June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Educational Research and Methods
15.59.1 - 15.59.9
A MULTI-INSTITUTIONAL STUDY OF CONNECTION, COMMUNITY AND ENGAGEMENT IN STEM EDUCATION: CONCEPTUAL MODEL DEVELOPMENT Abstract
Student engagement, which positively correlates to academic performance, is mediated by various connections-to-community (CTC). To gain a better understanding of the intricacies of CTC, a detailed study has commenced. The study includes a diverse mix of institutions including the University of Washington, Minnesota State University, Tuskegee University, Seattle Pacific University and Simmons College. Evaluation of CTC in STEM fields at this diverse mix of institutions will provide insight into some of the complex factors that affect CTC such as faith and worldview, ethnicity, gender, academic communities of practice, social networks, faculty-student ratios, teaching quality, and others. CTC, as well as their mediators and confounding influences, are studied using a mixed methods approach that includes surveys, semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Qualitative methods, including ethnographic study, are used to understand the experiences of under-represented minorities at institutions where statistically significant sample sizes are not possible. This paper focuses on the conceptual framework that ties CTC to key outcomes and qualities of STEM education and the surveys used to measure many of the constructs in the conceptual framework. The survey items for many constructs have been validated in previous research efforts in K-12 education and higher education; however, experience has shown that use of these assessment tools in STEM education necessitates their modification, reliability reevaluation, and revalidation to maintain accurate assessment of research questions. From this study will come both a conceptual model for understanding the relationships between CTC and their mediating and confounding factors, and a restructured assessment tool that can be used in STEM education to evaluate many of the affective inputs and behavioral outputs that ultimately correlate to short, moderate, and long term academic outcomes.
The success of any instructional style in promoting meaningful learning is critically dependent on the engagement of students in the course of instruction. Consequently, ensuring student engagement is a central goal of effective pedagogy. Student learning is influenced both by how students feel (affect) and their aptitude (cognitive factors). Historically, engineering education research has emphasized making improvements in how students learn primarily from a content- oriented or cognitive perspective. More recently, attention has been given to improving instructional modes to make them more student-centered, but little has been done beyond the K- 12 level to understand how connections-to-community (CTC) contribute to student engagement in higher education, particularly in STEM fields.
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