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Addressing the Learning Needs of Minority Students in Engineering through Participatory Design

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Anthony Hernandez California State University Los Angeles

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Dr. Hernandez is an Associate Professor in the Division of Applied and Advanced Studies in Education at California State University, Los Angeles. He received his doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on Latino student academic achievement and attainment.

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Pearl Chen California State University, Los Angeles

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Christine C. Clemmons California State University, Los Angeles


Jianyu Jane Dong California State University, Los Angeles

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Jianyu Dong is a professor in electrical and computer engineering at CSULA. Her area of expertise is video compression/communication, multimedia networks, QoS, etc. As the PI of the NSF CCLI Project entitled "Enhancing undergraduate computer networking curriculum using remote project-based learning," she works closely with colleagues from computer science to redesign the network curriculum to integrate project-based and inquiry-based learning.

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With the two year sponsorship from NSF between Fall 2012 and Spring 2014, an interdisciplinary research collaboration was formed between the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology (ECST) and the Charter College of Education (CCOE) at California State University Los Angeles. Through this partnership, a pilot research was conducted to investigate how students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups respond to the pedagogical components in Collaborative Project-based Learning (CPBL) in a senior engineering course. The investigation yielded interesting results that allowed us to better understand the learning characteristics of minority students in CPBL environments. These findings also laid a solid foundation to improve the course components so as to better address the learning needs of minority students. Subsequently, we re-examined the pedagogical model and enhance the instructional system based on the four building blocks of cognitive apprenticeship: content, method, sequence, and sociology (Collins, Brown, & Holum, 1991). Our redesign effort incorporated an innovative instructional design process using a strategy known as participatory design. The redesigned course was offered in Spring 2014 and Spring 2015, where multiple forms of data were collected to evaluate the effectiveness of the course redesign. Grounded in situated learning framework, the results of these studies highlighted several critical factors that positively impacted students' motivation which leads to a better retention rate.

The ground work completed through the interdisciplinary collaboration was productive with several milestone tasks completed, including an established participatory design process, the creation and piloting of a learning strategy website, and the development and validation of research instruments and protocols based on the situated learning framework. Over the past three years, we conducted a series of single-case studies and collected multiple forms of data, which allowed us to engage in in-depth exploration and analysis of the impact of CPBL and participatory design on different student groups in senior-level engineering classes. With the central purpose to increase minority students’ success in engineering, the goal of this paper is to present the findings based on our collective, multiple-case analysis. This analysis focuses on (a) course related knowledge and skill outcomes, (b) domain-specific efficacy in relation to situated learning, and (c) student engagement (deep vs. surface learning) and team dynamics. The data collected over the past three years will be analyzed collectively, triangulated, and related to relevant research and theories. This process allows us to work toward: (1) providing a more generalizable description of our overall findings, (2) gaining a greater understanding of the underlying classroom and course factors and their impact on the development of domain-specific efficacy among minority students, and (3) developing a set of guidelines to effectively incorporate participatory design based on the situated learning framework. The significance of the work presented in this paper highlights the need to accelerate current research on using participatory design as a means to empower minority students in engineering and technology related disciplines.

Hernandez, A., & Chen, P., & Clemmons, C. C., & Dong, J. J. (2016, June), Addressing the Learning Needs of Minority Students in Engineering through Participatory Design Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26526

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