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Attitudes of Engineering Students from Underrepresented Groups Toward Service-Learning

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Recruitment & Retention of Women II

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.263.1 - 22.263.29



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Paper Authors


John J. Duffy University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Professor, Faculty Coordinator of Service-Learning

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Linda Barrington University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Engineering Service, Learning Coordinator

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Manuel A Heredia University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Responses of Engineering Students from Underrepresented Groups Toward Service-LearningOngoing student surveys, supplemented by interviews, reveal that service in general and service-learning (S-L) in particular is more attractive to those from underrepresented groups inengineering than to their counterparts. Courses with service-learning projects have beenintegrated into existing required courses in engineering over the past six years in fivedepartments of a state university. Last academic year S-L projects were completed in courses(ranging from 7% to 100% of the grade) by1150 students. Entering students have been sampledevery fall with a pre survey, and then all students are surveyed “post” at the end of the springsemester. Some students have placed their ID numbers on the surveys so that their surveys canbe tracked over time and responses compared. Evidence continues to mount of the significantdifference in responses in attitudes toward community service in engineering with womenespecially and to a lesser extent other minorities in engineering (non-white or Asian andHispanic). For example, in the September 2010 pre survey with 469 responses (out of 487students in the introduction to engineering class), 22% answered yes to the question of whetherservice-learning was a factor in choosing the college, but 37% of the females said yes. In anordering of reasons for going into engineering, females consistently rank “helping others” firstwhile the males list job “stability” first and helping others third. In 7 of 14 questions, femaleresponses were significantly different from males (t-test, 5%). In 2 of 14 questions, minoritieshad significant differences.In post surveys last spring, for example, in response to the statement: “To what extent have yourservice-learning project(s) this year had impact on the likelihood that I would continue inengineering,” 346 males had a mean response of 6.04, and 60 females 7.23 (significantdifference on a t-test at the 5% level) on a Likert scale of 1 to 9 (strongly negative to stronglypositive). The responses to all 30 statements/questions (except one) in the survey hadsignificant differences from neutral (5 on the Likert scale) for all the students responding, butfemales had significant differences from the males on 22 questions out of the 30 in the directionof positive views on service-learning. Voluntary participation in S-L projects involving workwith and in developing countries continues to attract females at a rate of 3 times their underlyingpopulation.The results of these ongoing S-L courses and surveys point to a growing difference by gender inresponse to community service in general and service-learning in particular. Other recent studiesalso point in this direction (e.g., Campus Compact, 2010). If the engineering profession wants toattract and retain more people from underrepresented groups, more service-learning inengineering is one approach.

Duffy, J. J., & Barrington, L., & Heredia, M. A. (2011, June), Attitudes of Engineering Students from Underrepresented Groups Toward Service-Learning Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17544

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