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Creating Inclusive Environments in First-year Engineering Classes to Support Student Retention and Learning

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 4: The Best of the All: FPD Best Papers

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.418.1 - 26.418.16



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Paper Authors


Christina H Paguyo Colorado State University

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Christina H. Paguyo, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the College of Engineering at Colorado State University. Her research interests focus on mixed methods approaches for designing and examining educational environments grounded in research, theory, and equity. She has co-authored peer-reviewed articles published in the Peabody Journal of Education and the Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education.

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Rebecca A Atadero Colorado State University

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Rebecca Atadero is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University, specializing in structural engineering. She conducts research on the inspection, management and renewal of existing structures, and on engineering education.

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Karen E Rambo-Hernandez West Virginia University Orcid 16x16

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Karen E. Rambo-Hernandez is an assistant professor at West Virginia University in the College of Education and Human Services in the department of Learning Sciences and Human Development. In her research, she is interested the assessment of student learning, particularly the assessment of academic growth, and evaluating the impact of curricular change.

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Jennifer Francis West Virginia University

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Jennifer Francis is a graduate student at West Virginia University in the College of Education and Human Services in the Education Research and Evaluation master's program. Her research interests include mathematics education, project/problem based learning, and evaluations of a variety of educational programs.

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Creating Inclusive Environments in First-Year Engineering Classes to Support Student Retention and LearningA new NSF-funded experimental study seeks to incorporate innovative curriculum activities thatcultivate inclusive engineering identities and demonstrate how the engineering professionbenefits from diversity in order to expand first-year engineering student perceptions about whocan be an engineer and what engineers do. This effort aims to create a cultural shift inengineering departments so students think beyond stereotypical perceptions of who belongs tothe engineering profession (White men) toward more expansive notions about how theengineering profession needs diversity to thrive. Arguably, inclusive engineering departmentswill contribute to the retention and success of students who are underrepresented in engineeringin terms of gender and race, but also in terms of backgrounds, talents, and interests.In this paper, we will (a) share findings from preliminary survey analysis tracking over time theengineering identities, goal orientations, career development paths and perceptions aboutdiversity in engineering of engineering freshmen during their first semester in existing first-yearcourses; (b) provide an overview of scholarship regarding pedagogical practices that fosterstrong engineering identities and position diversity as essential for strong engineering practice;and (c) share theoretically-based and evidence-driven activities that will be incorporated in first-year engineering courses in subsequent years of this NSF grant.Our theoretical approach is grounded in sociocultural theories of learning, where learning isviewed as a shift in how students participate in community practices (Esmonde, 2009).Becoming an engineer, for example, can be viewed as a shift in how students participate inengineering practices, where freshmen appropriate engineering ways of talking, being, andinteracting. However, some professions have traditionally excluded populations fromparticipating in community practices (Gildersleeve, 2010), including engineering norms that tendto marginalize women and minorities (Riley, Slaton & Pawley, 2014), thus preventing studentsfrom participating in engineering practices and learning how to become engineers. Subsequently,we draw on Trede, Macklin, & Bridges (2011) to understand three criteria for developingclassroom activities so students can participate in engineering practices, develop engineeringidentities, and integrate the value of all kinds of diversity in engineering. First, professors shouldteach the knowledge, skills, ways of being, and values of engineers (similarities amongengineers). Second, professors should teach how engineers can collaborate by exposing studentsto the unique, yet important, value that engineering and other professions bring when identifyingand solving problems (differences from non-engineers). Third, professors should cultivate asense of belonging (identification with engineering) so students identify themselves and theirpeers as engineers, regardless of their backgrounds. These factors constitute important elementstoward developing engineering identities and appreciation for diversity, wherein professors areresponsible for designing curricula so students not only learn technical skills and engineeringcontent, but also learn the value of engineering and the value that all students bring to bear on theengineering profession.Our method of assessment is multilevel modeling based growth curve analyses (i.e., repeatedobservations within students who are nested within groups) of survey data, which willcharacterize the initial levels of appreciation of diversity, identification with engineering, goalorientations, and the rate of change in these constructs over time (Singer & Willett, 2003).Our outcomes will include two findings. The first outcome is survey data from year one of thestudy among freshmen engineering students enrolled in first-year engineering courses. Sincethese students did not receive explicit exposure to issues of diversity and engineering identity,their survey data constitutes the comparison group. Then we will highlight differences in initiallevels and in trajectories for underrepresented students and their counterparts on appreciation ofdiversity, identification with engineering, and goal orientations. The second outcome highlightsexperimental classroom activities designed for students to learn about diversity and fortifyengineering identities. Rather than developing an intervention for underrepresented groups inengineering, we are targeting all first-year engineering students. The activities will be designedto help all students not only identify as engineers, but to also appreciate, value, and ultimatelyseek out diversity in engineering. The development of these experimental classroom activitieswill be informed by survey data and extant literature about engineering identities and inclusiveenvironments. ReferencesEsmonde, I. (2009). Ideas and identities: Supporting equity in cooperative mathematics learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 1008-1043.Gildersleeve, R. E. (2010). Fracturing opportunity: Mexican migrant students and college-going literacy. New York: Peter Lang Publishers.Riley, D., Slaton, A.E., & Pawley, A.L. (2014). Social justice and inclusion: Women and minorities in engineering. In A. Johri & B.M. Olds (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research, (pp. 335-356). New York: Cambridge University Press.Singer, J.D., & Willett, J.B. (2003). Applied longitudinal data analysis: Modeling change and event occurrence. New York: Oxford University Press.Trede, F., Macklin, R., & Bridges, D. (2011). Professional identity development: A review of the higher education literature. Studies in Higher Education, 37(3), 365-384.

Paguyo, C. H., & Atadero, R. A., & Rambo-Hernandez, K. E., & Francis, J. (2015, June), Creating Inclusive Environments in First-year Engineering Classes to Support Student Retention and Learning Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23757

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