Asee peer logo

Adjusting the Lens: Comparison of Focus Group and Survey Data in Identifying and Addressing Issues of Diversity and Inclusion in Undergraduate Engineering Programs

Download Paper |

Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

9

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/32041

Download Count

11

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Amy Trauth University of Delaware Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-5146-592X

visit author page

Amy Trauth, Ph.D., is the Senior Associate Director of Science Education at the University of Delaware's Professional Development Center for Educators. In her role, Amy works collaboratively with K-12 science and engineering teachers to develop and implement standards-based curricula and assessments. She also provides mentoring and coaching and co-teaching support to K-12 teachers across the entire trajectory of the profession. Her research focuses on teacher education, classroom assessment, and P-16 environmental and engineering education.

visit author page

biography

Jenni Buckley University of Delaware

visit author page

Dr. Buckley is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Delaware. She received her Bachelor’s of Engineering (2001) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Delaware, and her MS (2004) and PhD (2006) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked on computational and experimental methods in spinal biomechanics. Since 2006, her research efforts have focused on the development and mechanical evaluation of medical and rehabilitation devices, particularly orthopaedic, neurosurgical, and pediatric devices. She teaches courses in design, biomechanics, and mechanics at University of Delaware and is heavily involved in K12 engineering education efforts at the local, state, and national levels.

visit author page

biography

Sarah Ilkhanipour Rooney University of Delaware

visit author page

Sarah I. Rooney is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Undergraduate Program in the Biomedical Engineering department at the University of Delaware, where she seeks to bring evidence-based teaching practices to the undergraduate curriculum. She received her B.S.E. (2009) and M.S.E. (2010) in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and her Ph.D. (2015) in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

visit author page

biography

Joshua A. Enszer University of Delaware

visit author page

Dr. Joshua Enszer is an associate professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has taught core and elective courses across the curriculum, from introduction to engineering science and material and energy balances to process control, capstone design, and mathematical modeling of chemical and environmental systems. His research interests include technology and learning in various incarnations: electronic portfolios as a means for assessment and professional development, implementation of computational tools across the chemical engineering curriculum, and game-based learning.

visit author page

biography

Tia Navelene Barnes University of Delaware

visit author page

Dr. Tia Barnes is an assistant professor at the University of Delaware in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences and the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy. She is a mixed-methods researcher with a focus on the use of culturally responsive practices in creating positive classroom and school climates across grade levels. She has published work in several journals authored a number of research articles in journals including Aggression and Violent Behavior, Journal of School Violence, Journal of Classroom Interactions, and Education and Treatment of Children. She has also published book chapters in The Wiley Handbook of Violence and Aggression: Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment of Individuals and Classroom Behavior, Contexts, and Interventions: Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities.

visit author page

biography

Rachel Davidson University of Delaware Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-6061-5985

visit author page

Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Associate Dean for Diversity, College of Engineering
Core Faculty Member, Disaster Research Center
University of Delaware Newark, DE

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

The underrepresentation of women and underrepresented minorities (URM, def. non-White, non-Asian) in engineering undergraduate programs can be attributed to a multitude of factors, including, but not limited to, insufficient preparation and barriers in recruiting into engineering programs at the K-12 level, low self-efficacy, lack of peer support, inadequate academic advising or faculty support, harmful stereotypes of particular groups that influence interactions in classrooms or in peer groups, and a chilly or unappealing climate [1-9]. The contribution of each of these potential factors to issues of diversity and inclusion differs by institution and, frequently, within each institution due to the presence of microclimates across specific academic units and disciplines [10, 11].

Given potential granularity of the problem within and across institutions, it is important for faculty and administrators to assess issues of diversity and inclusion as proximal as possible to their own academic units, while simultaneously taking a sufficiently wide lens on the issues in order to avoid selection bias and confidentiality concerns [11]. Previous institutional research on underrepresentation in engineering utilized either a “tight lens” via focus group and one-on-one interviews [2, 14] or a “wide lens” through surveys [5, 6]. Taken together, these studies have identified the primary drivers of underrepresentation within the engineering discipline [1,3]; however, they do not necessarily present a methodological framework for investigating issues at the institution level. Specifically, the question of “lens” – that is, whom you study and how – has yet to be addressed within the literature. The goal of this study is thus to compare common “themes” in diversity [1-9] that arise through focus group (“tight lens”) and survey (“wide lens”) methodologies within a single engineering undergraduate population. These data will aid in the interpretation of past and future ethnographic research on diversity and inclusion within engineering, specifically as it relates to the concordance of these two commonly used research methodologies.

“Tight” and “wide lens” methodologies were applied to the same undergraduate engineering student population at a single institution. The “tight lens” approach involved multiple focus groups disaggregated by gender, race, and engineering discipline and has been previously reported [11]. Focus group prompts were generated from the literature [1,3] and included high school preparation, interactions with peers, interactions with faculty and staff, program supports, and family support. Focus group interviews were recorded, transcribed, and subjected to thematic analysis (NVivo, v10, QSR International). The “wide lens” approach involved administration of a voluntary survey to the entire undergraduate student body (Qualtrics, Aug 2018, Provo, UT), with question prompts aligned with the five aforementioned themes and drawn from validated survey instruments whenever possible [13-15]. Survey responses were compared by gender (male, female) and race (URM or majority) using one-way ANOVA with post-hoc adjustment.

A total of 12 focus groups were recruited (n=63 students total), and the survey response rate was 10% (n=246). Survey respondents were demographically representative of the at-large population, while underrepresented and women students were oversampled in the focus groups. As previously reported [11], the focus group study highlighted disparities between majority (white or Asian male) and underrepresented (women, URM) students across several themes. Specifically, women and URMs reported being the target of peer micro-aggressions, and URMs experienced clear micro-aggressions from faculty members. Although students were asked directly in the broader survey if they experienced micro-aggressions or overt discrimination from peers or faculty, women and URMs did not report higher incidence of experiencing micro-aggressions, although both underrepresented and majority populations were aware of micro-aggressions against others. Both women and minorities were more hesitant than majority peers to approach a faculty member for help if they were struggling with course material (p<0.05, both groups, effect size: 0.44 and 0.49 for women and URM, respectively, on 7-pt Likert). Women, but not URMs, rated themselves lower in terms of science, engineering, and problem solving self-efficacy as compared to their majority peers (p<0.01 all measures, effect sizes 0.35-0.59 on 5-pt Likert).

Comparing the results of our two study methodologies, we see distinct “themes” that emerge from the “tight lens” focus group approach versus the “wide lens” survey. Micro-aggressions against women and URMs were highlighted clearly in the focus group results. While consistent with the literature [5,6], the prevalence of micro-aggressions may have been overstated when compared to the broader survey results, which showed awareness of micro-aggressions against others but not against self in both underrepresented and majority populations. The survey results also highlighted deficiencies in self-efficacy for women students that are again highly consistent with the literature [5,6] but not emergent from the focus group data.

Taken together, these results suggest that the “lens” – that is, the methodological approach – does impact principal study findings, even from the same undergraduate population. Given that the findings of our study were used to drive strategic planning for diversity and inclusion efforts at our institution, we caution against relying on a single methodology – however consistent your findings are with the literature – to set your course of action. We most strongly advise a mixed methodological approach consisting of both “tight” and “wide lens” views of the issues.

Trauth, A., & Buckley, J., & Rooney, S. I., & Enszer, J. A., & Barnes, T. N., & Davidson, R. (2019, June), Adjusting the Lens: Comparison of Focus Group and Survey Data in Identifying and Addressing Issues of Diversity and Inclusion in Undergraduate Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/32041

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015