June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Minorities in Engineering
12.298.1 - 12.298.41
Attracting Underrepresented Groups to Engineering with Service-Learning Abstract
The University of Massachusetts Lowell College of Engineering has an objective to integrate service-learning into core required courses in every department so every student every semester has at least one course with S-L (SLICE: Service-Learning Integrated throughout a College of Engineering). Why? Because past research has shown service-learning (S-L) to be effective meeting course learning objectives while addressing real community needs and to be successful for students on a number of cognitive and affective measures. In addition, the college wishes to attract and retain underrepresented groups in engineering. For example, the college in 2004-05 had only 12% females in its undergraduate engineering population of 914 full-time students compared to 17.5% national average. Since past research has shown that women students respond to applied knowledge and helping people, and underrepresented minorities to community connections, there are many ways in which service-learning is a good fit.
Responding to the SLICE initiative, 25 engineering faculty members actually implemented S-L into at least one of their courses during the 04-05 academic year and 34 faculty in 05-06. In 2005-06 over the two semesters an average of 700 undergraduate students participated in S-L projects in 52 courses, some with required S-L projects and others elective. This wide variety of courses included, for example, a first year introduction to engineering with 300 students, kinematics, soil mechanics, heat transfer, engineering ethics, electronics, plastics design, strength of materials, and a senior EE capstone course on assistive technology with 70 students. Community partners included the Lowell National Historical Park, many local rehabilitation clinics, a local food bank, the City Transportation Office, as well as remote villages in a developing country. There is evidence that females are attracted to service-learning projects in 16 universities that have adopted the EPICS program in which elective courses are chosen that are entirely focused on S-L projects by women at a rate more than double that of the underlying population. There is emerging evidence from the SLICE project that S-L may attract more females and minorities also. In the “pre” surveys, in a ranking of 12 possible reasons for wanting to go into engineering, “helping others” ranked second to “challenge, self-development” among females and non- Caucasians, but did not rank in the top four for Caucasians, losing out to challenge, income, creativity, and security. The trend of difference continued in the pre-survey in the fall of 2005, with over 500 responses: females and males showed significant differences in the “helping others” category ranking with a Chi-Square test at the 5% significance level. In a long-standing voluntary S-L program involving design and installation of systems in a remote region of a developing country, thirty-five percent of the engineering students have been female, three times the underlying population. In a faculty survey (with 70% of the 75 faculty responding), females were significantly more confident that S-L can be academic rigorous and take no more course time than males (t-test at the 5% level). In a post survey in the spring of 2006 fourteen percent of the 433 students said they came to U Mass Lowell because of S-L. Thus, there is growing evidence in this study and elsewhere that S-L may be able to attract and keep students, particularly females and other underrepresented groups, in engineering.
Barrington, L., & Duffy, J. (2007, June), Attracting Underrepresented Groups To Engineering With Service Learning Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2993
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