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Constructing “Calculus Readiness”: Struggling for Legitimacy in a Diversity-Promoting Undergraduate Engineering Program

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Conference

2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015

ISBN

978-0-692-50180-1

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Broadening Participation in Engineering

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

17

Page Numbers

26.397.1 - 26.397.17

DOI

10.18260/p.23736

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/23736

Download Count

86

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Paper Authors

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Kevin O'Connor University of Colorado Boulder Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-7172-1724

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Kevin O’Connor is assistant professor of educational psychology. His scholarship focuses on human action, communication, and learning as socioculturally organized phenomena. One major strand of research has explored the varied trajectories taken by students as they attempt to enter professional disciplines such as engineering, and focuses on the dilemmas encountered by students as they move through these institutionalized trajectories. Another strand of research has explored community organizing efforts that aim to construct new trajectories into valued futures for youth, especially those of nondominant communities. He is co-editor of a 2010 National Society for the Study of Education Yearbook, Learning Research as a Human Science. Other work has appeared in Linguistics and Education; Mind, Culture, and Activity; Anthropology & Education Quarterly, the Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science; the Journal of Engineering Education; and the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research. His teaching interests include developmental psychology; sociocultural theories of communication, learning, and identity; qualitative methods; and discourse analysis.

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Frederick A. Peck Freudenthal Institute, School of Education, University of Colorado

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Frederick Peck is a PhD Candidate in the School of Education at the University of Colorado.

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Julie Cafarella University of Colorado, Boulder

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Julie Cafarella is a PhD student in Educational Psychology & Learning Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Before moving to Colorado, she worked as a public school teacher in New England. Her current research focuses on issues of access and equity in STEM education.

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Jacquelyn F. Sullivan PhD University of Colorado, Boulder

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Jacquelyn Sullivan is founding co-director of the General Engineering Plus degree program in the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She spearheaded design and launch of the Engineering GoldShirt Program to provide a unique access pathway to engineering for high potential, next tier students not admitted through the standard admissions process; early findings revealed significant challenges in calculus readiness. Sullivan was conferred as an ASEE Fellow in 2011 and was awarded NAE’s 2008 Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.

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Tanya D Ennis University of Colorado, Boulder

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Beth A Myers University of Colorado Boulder

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Beth A. Myers is the engineering assessment specialist for the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program at the University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a BA in biochemistry, ME in engineering management and is currently a PhD candidate studying engineering education at the College of Engineering and Applied Science. She has worked for the University of Colorado in various capacities for 16 years, including as a program manager for a small medical research center and most recently as Director of Access and Recruiting for the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Her interests are in quantitative and qualitative research and data analysis.

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Daria A Kotys-Schwartz University of Colorado Boulder

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Daria Kotys-Schwartz is the Director of the Idea Forge—a flexible, cross-disciplinary design space at University of Colorado Boulder. She is also the Design Center Colorado Director of Undergraduate Programs and a Senior Instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She received B.S. and M.S degrees in mechanical engineering 
from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder. Kotys-Schwartz has focused her research in engineering student learning, retention, and student identity development within the context of engineering design. She is currently investigating the impact of cultural norms in an engineering classroom context, performing comparative studies between engineering education and professional design practices, examining holistic approaches to student retention, and exploring informal learning in engineering education.

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Beverly Louie University of Colorado, Boulder

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Abstract

Constructing “calculus readiness”: Struggling for legitimacy in a diversity- promoting undergraduate engineering programHow do newcomers to engineering, such as engineering students, become recognizedmembers of the profession? Situated learning theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991) proposedthe notion of legitimate peripheral participation as central to a newcomer’s trajectorytoward membership in a community of practice. Left underdeveloped were issues of hownewcomers arrived at the periphery of a community; which other communitymemberships these newcomers might have; and what are the processes by whichlegitimacy was conferred or denied (Lave, 2008; Nespor, 1994; O’Connor, 2003). Theseare critically important issues in engineering education, given persistent attempts toincrease representation in the field of members of historically underrepresented groups.Our objective in this paper is to address these questions by considering the relationshipbetween institutional category systems and the processes by which legitimacy isconferred upon newcomers.To do so, we draw on two key theoretical constructs. Trajectories of membership(Bowker & Star, 1999; Lave & Wenger, 1991) describe the adoption of and conferral ofidentities upon newcomers. Trajectories of naturalization (Bowker & Star, 1999)describe the ways in which objects—including categories and categorization systems—enter into and become naturalized within a community of practice. Of particular interesthere is the way that people become tied to categories, a process that Bowker and Star(1999) call filiation.We conducted field-based ethnographic work centered on students, faculty, and staffinvolved in a diversity program in a prestigious U.S. college of engineering. The goal ofour data collection was to capture student experiences and the ways in which thoseexperiences were organized. We used a variety of fieldwork methods includingethnographic observations of routine activities, ethnographic interviews, and focusgroups. Our data include fieldnotes, meeting minutes, and video and audio recordings.Our analysis involved concurrent engagement in data collection and data analysis, usingConstant Comparative Analysis. We analyzed data from initial fieldwork early in theresearch process, leading to a preliminary “grounded theory,” which led in turn to furtherfieldwork to refine the theory, and so on through multiple iterative cycles.In this paper we will discuss a key finding related to the filiation work (Bowker & Star,1999) done by institutions, including the college of engineering and the university. Weshow how students became tied to an emergent category of “calculus readiness”—itselftied to a longstanding identification of engineering with mathematics. This categoryentered into relationships with other classification systems to produce a space in whichthe legitimacy of students in the diversity initiative was contested, both by the studentsthemselves and by institutions. We highlight the ways in which students and staff in thediversity initiative struggled for legitimacy within this space, and we discuss the multipletrajectories of membership that resulted from this struggle.By providing insight into the contentious process by which legitimacy is conferred onnewcomers to engineering, this paper takes a first step towards addressing the unjustunderrepresentation of many communities in the engineering profession.Bowker, G.C., & Star, S.L. (1999). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Lave, J. (2008). Situated learning and changing practice. In A. Amin & J. Roberts (Eds.), Community, economic creativity, and organization (pp. 283–296). New York: Oxford University Press.Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge.Nespor, J. (1994). Knowledge in motion: Space, time, and curriculum in undergraduate physics and management. London: Falmer Press.O’Connor, K. (2003). Communicative practice, cultural production, and situated learning: Constructing and contesting identities of expertise in a heterogeneous learning context. In S. Wortham & B. Rymes (Eds.), Linguistic anthropology of education (pp. 63–91). London: Praeger.

O'Connor, K., & Peck, F. A., & Cafarella, J., & Sullivan, J. F., & Ennis, T. D., & Myers, B. A., & Kotys-Schwartz, D. A., & Louie, B. (2015, June), Constructing “Calculus Readiness”: Struggling for Legitimacy in a Diversity-Promoting Undergraduate Engineering Program Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23736

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