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Board # 91 : The Influence of Gender Grouping on Female Students' Academic Engagement and Achievement in Engineering and Biology: A Case of Small Group Work in Design-based Learning (Work in Progress)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Miancheng Guo University of Massachusetts

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Miancheng Guo is a PhD candidate in Science Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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Martina Nieswandt University of Massachusetts

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Martina Nieswandt is an Associate Professor of Science Education and Associate Dean for Research and Engagement in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on the relationship between motivation, affects and learning associated with K-16 science concepts and various instructional contexts (e.g., small groups, project-based learning) utilizing mixed-methods approaches.

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Elizabeth McEneaney University of Massachusetts

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Dr. McEneaney is Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. She is a former high school mathematics and science teacher, and earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University. An associate editor for the Journal of Curriculum Studies, she has research interests in equity and access to STEM Education, and the influence of globalization on STEM curricula.

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During the past 30 years, much attention has been drawn to the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the need to attract and retain them in these fields. In the relevant literature, the influence of gender grouping on variables such as female students’ interest, self-efficacy, participation/engagement and achievement in STEM subjects has been a salient line of research. However, researchers have arrived at mixed findings. Also, while researchers have investigated the influence of gender grouping on female students in various instructional contexts, such as authentic engineering design tasks, collaborative learning in inquiry-based science, paper-and-pencil problem solving, little has been done on design-based science (DBS), a relatively new pedagogy in which students construct scientific and engineering knowledge and engineering skills through designing components, artifacts or systems. Further, among those studies that addressed engagement, most adopted a uni-dimensional perspective instead of a three-dimensional one that dissects this concept into its behavioral, emotional and cognitive aspects. This paper is an effort to address these inadequacies. In our study, we explored (1) the relationship between gender grouping and female students’ behavioral/emotional/cognitive engagement; and (2) the relationship between female students’ behavioral/emotional/cognitive engagement and their achievement in engineering concepts and practices and biology concepts. The specific context of this study was a DBS task in a high school biology class in which 4-member student groups designed a heart valve for a hypothetic patient. For the purpose of our study, we systematically varied the gender composition of the groups so there were 100% female groups, 75% female groups, 50% female groups, 25% female groups and 100% male groups. To investigate the above-mentioned relationships, we collected quantitative and qualitative data on students’ pre-activity interest, self-efficacy, and knowledge in science and engineering, videotaped their engineering design processes, and interviewed them regarding their perceptions of their group work. To determine students’ behavioral/emotional/cognitive engagement levels in different steps of the engineering design cycle, we used sequence analysis – a quantitative data analysis technique that is appropriate for analyzing temporal data, and elaborated running records – a qualitative data analysis technique that allowed us to qualitatively capture the interactions between girls and boys in the same group and other noticeable phenomena during their design process. To determine the relationships between students’ engagement and achievement, we used hierarchical linear modeling. Preliminary data analysis results show that the changes of levels of girls’ emotional and cognitive engagement across the design process were related not only to their male teammates’ behavior but also to the design step their group was in (e.g., Conceptual Design where brainstorming and discussion were the main activities vs. Embodiment Design where hands-on construction was prominent). Also, another preliminary finding is that the female students’ achievement in engineering practices was significantly related to their emotional engagement in the design task (our data analysis is still going on and we will report more results in our full paper).

Guo, M., & Nieswandt, M., & McEneaney, E. (2017, June), Board # 91 : The Influence of Gender Grouping on Female Students' Academic Engagement and Achievement in Engineering and Biology: A Case of Small Group Work in Design-based Learning (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27954

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