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Creating an Inclusive Engineering Student Culture Through Diverse Teams: Instructor-led and Student-led Approaches

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Bridging Content and Context in the Classroom

Tagged Divisions

Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education

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Paper Authors


Heather Dillon University of Washington Tacoma Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Heather Dillon is Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington Tacoma. Her research team is working on energy efficiency, renewable energy, fundamental heat transfer, and engineering education. Before joining academia, Heather Dillon worked for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) as a senior research engineer.

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Tammy VanDeGrift University of Portland

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Dr. Tammy VanDeGrift is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Portland. Her research interests include computer science education, pedagogy, and best practices for retention and engagement.

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Past researchers have linked diversity to increased creativity in engineering teams. Self-efficacy and retention also relate to how well students believe they fit socially and academically in engineering. This paper reports on three qualitative studies at one university aimed to improve students’ sense of belonging in engineering. The three interventions included: a diversity workshop in an introduction to engineering course, a student-driven project to encourage welcoming and diverse study groups, and a junior-level teamwork design project.

The study found the engineering program has a positive climate inside the classroom and a slightly less positive climate outside the classroom. Even when junior-level students report that diverse teams are more creative, students do not strongly believe that different backgrounds are important and maintain biases. The student led intervention was successful, as the upper-level students produced a video about the value of diverse study groups. We confirmed that traditional engineering students are resistant to changes in student culture, as evidenced by the difficulty in shifting student bias towards inclusion in the three interventions. The most promising approach is student-led, where senior students worked to change the student culture directly.

Dillon, H., & VanDeGrift, T. (2021, July), Creating an Inclusive Engineering Student Culture Through Diverse Teams: Instructor-led and Student-led Approaches Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36871

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