New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
Interdisciplinary experiences that support development of students’ communication, networking and other professional skills not only equip students with abilities for the future workplace but also foment students’ emerging identities as engineers or other professional roles. This outcome was measured as part of an interdisciplinary Summer Research Community (SRC). This university brought together students from multiple NSF REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) programs and other science, social sciences, and humanities research cohorts to form an interdisciplinary experience.
SRC organizers created a 10-week summer program with eleven explicit goals related to building connections, community, professional identity and communication and research skills. The program consisted of weekly interactive seminars on research-related topics such as societal and ethical dimensions of research, networking, cultural and social events, as well as multidisciplinary living communities for out-of-state students. The SRC researchers, themselves an interdisciplinary team, designed and administered a post-participation survey instrument to assess outcomes related to the specified goals. Two years of survey results, N=40 (of 103 survey recipients) in 2014 and and N=44 (of 151 survey recipients) in 2015 are presented in this paper. This quantitative survey instrument was based on themes that emerged during a qualitative interview study of 2011 and 2012 REUs.
A variety of results in 2014 and 2015 data point to gains in students’ professional identity. Other studies have shown that feeling connected to one’s major increases persistence toward degree attainment. The largest gains in skills, as self-reported by students, were in relation to being able to explain their work to other researchers in and out of their own disciplines, achieving an average of 4.4 (on a 5-point scale). For a survey statement related to professional identity, the average agreement level was 79% of students in 2014 and 68% in 2015 to a statement that linked their SRC experience to their “feel[ing] like a researcher in my discipline.”
The authors also conclude that students placed high value on the interdisciplinary nature of their experiences connecting with students from STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and non-STEM majors. Students gave short answers to questions about what they found most useful and most enjoyable in the SRC program. Analysis of comments showed students placed high value on networking and making connections with people of all disciplines and ages. In conclusion, as the 21st century workplace requires engineers with professional skills who value and can communicate with others, the authors offer a program that can build skills to support students in their college and post-college careers.
Llewellyn, D. C., & Pyke, P., & Paterson, S., & Landrum, R. E., & Scarritt, A., & Cullers, J. B. S., & Warner, D. L. (2016, June), Better Together: Connecting with Other Disciplines Builds Students' Own Skills and Professional Identity Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26381
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