Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session
Project funded by the Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)
Broadening participation in engineering is critical given the gap between the nation’s need for engineering graduates and its production of them. Efforts to spark interest in engineering among PreK-12 students have increased substantially in recent years as a result. However, past research has demonstrated that interest is not always sufficient to help students pursue engineering majors, particularly for rural students. In many rural communities, influential adults (family, friends, teachers) are often the primary influence on career choice, while factors such as community values, lack of social and cultural capital, limited course availability, and inadequate financial resources act as potential barriers. To account for these contextual factors, this project shifts the focus from individual students to the communities to understand how key stakeholders and organizations support engineering as a major choice and addresses the following questions:
RQ1: What do current undergraduate engineering students from rural high schools describe as influences on their choice to attend college and pursue engineering as a post-secondary major?
RQ2: How does the college choice process differ for rural students who enrolled in a 4-year university immediately after high school and those who transferred from a 2-year institution?
RQ3: How do community members describe the resources that serve as key supports as well as the barriers that hinder support in their community?
RQ4: What strategies do community members perceive their community should implement to enhance their ability to support engineering as a potential career choice?
RQ5: How are these supports transferable or adaptable by other schools? What community-level factors support or inhibit transfer and adaptation?
To answer the research questions, we employed a three-phase qualitative study. Phase 1 focused on understanding the experiences and perceptions of current [University Name] students from higher-producing rural schools. Analysis of focus group and interview data with 52 students highlighted the importance of interest and support from influential adults in students’ decision to major in engineering. One key finding from this phase was the importance of community college for many of our participants. Transfer students who attended community college before enrolling at [University Name] discussed the financial influences on their decision and the benefits of higher education much more frequently than their peers. In Phase 2, we used the findings from Phase 1 to conduct interviews within the participants’ home communities. This phase helped triangulate students’ perceptions with the perceptions and practices of others, and, equally importantly, allowed us to understand the goals, attitudes, and experiences of school personnel and local community members as they work with students. Participants from the students’ home communities indicated that there were few opportunities for students to learn more about engineering careers and provided suggestions for how colleges and universities could be more involved with students from their community. Phase 3, scheduled for Spring 2020, will bring the findings from Phases 1 and 2 back to rural communities via two participatory design workshops. These workshops, designed to share our findings and foster collaborative dialogue among the participants, will enable us to explore factors that support or hinder transfer of findings and to identify policies and strategies that would enhance each community’s ability to support engineering as a potential career choice.
Vaziri, S. L., & Paretti, M. C., & Grohs, J. R., & Baum, L. M., & McGlothlin Lester, M., & Newbill, P. L. (2020, June), Communities Support Engineering as a College Major Choice Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34307
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