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Best Practices In Engineering Education: Is The Impact Gendered?

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



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Special Topics

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Page Numbers

7.256.1 - 7.256.19



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Moshe Hartman

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Harriet Hartman

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Harriet Hartman, Moshe Hartman Department of Sociology, Rowan University

Abstract This paper presents results from an NSF-funded study of engineering students at Rowan University. Only five years old, the infrastructure of Rowan's engineering program has incorporated many of the elements believed to facilitate the retention and success of women in engineering. Hands-on lab work and interdisciplinary, cooperative teamwork are cornerstones of all levels of the undergraduate program; communication skills are integrated into the curriculum; a low faculty-student ratio and class size insure individualized attention; ample opportunities for industry-based internships exist. Under such conditions, do female students flourish alongside the male students? The study compares male and female students’ satisfaction with various aspects of the program and climate in the Engineering College, and shows variation in gender differences by year in the program. The analysis shows that female students are as satisfied or more satisfied than the male students with the programmatic elements of demands on the students in the classroom and in the curriculum, the applied aspects of the program in terms of labwork, teamwork and Rowan’s engineering clinic, and peer and student-faculty relationships. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings in terms of whether the practices of the Rowan program are indeed best practices in engineering education, and not for women only.

Introduction The national shortage of engineers has led to scrutiny of the “pipeline” which leads from interest in the sciences in the childhood years through career commitment to the field. Critical in this journey are the undergraduate years. Astin and Astin1 estimated 40% attrition in engineering during the undergraduate years; Strenta et. al.2 reported 40 - 60% attrition in engineering for men and even higher, 54-70%, attrition for women; Adelman3 shows a persistent 20% gap nationally between men’s and women’s completion rates of the undergraduate degree in engineering. Staying in engineering during the undergraduate years is intricately tied to student satisfaction with their major4,5,6,7. In a study of over 6000 women at 53 institutions, happiness with their major was one of the main differences between those who stayed in engineering and those leaving it8. Previous research suggests that student satisfaction with their undergraduate experience is positively affected by departmental atmosphere, including quality of teaching, class size, and faculty support1,6,8, being able to work on research with a faculty member or independently1, and

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Hartman, M., & Hartman, H. (2002, June), Best Practices In Engineering Education: Is The Impact Gendered? Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10489

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