June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Community Engagement Division
23.435.1 - 23.435.17
Differences by Student Gender in Engineering Service-LearningAttracting and retaining women in engineering is critical in the USA today. While women arecoming to college in overrepresented numbers, they are not represented equally to men inengineering majors. Though a university can only have limited impact on the attrition ofwomen in the engineering workforce, we can (and must!) work to improve recruitment andretention and to graduate women with adequate preparation for an engineering career.Service-learning (S-L) has been shown to be an effective hands-on approach to engineeringeducation. Defined early and still widely accepted, S-L is when a community identified need ismet through a structured activity in a credit-bearing course, in which the students perform aservice and reflect on that service to better understand the course content, their chosen professionand their role as a citizen. An increasing number of engineering programs are integrating S-Linto their curricula.For the past eight years of one S-L program, students in a college of engineering have beenwidely surveyed at the beginning of their studies and at the end of each academic year. A morelimited number of interviews have also been conducted. The purpose of the ongoing study is toinvestigate the impacts of S-L on the students, faculty, institution and community.Quantitative analysis of student survey responses over the years reveals a consistently markeddifference in attitude between genders toward community engagement generally, and S-Lspecifically. For example, in the spring of 2012, 465 surveys were collected from engineeringstudents of all grades and majors, of whom 57 identified as female. Among several other items,statistically significant differences (at the 5% level) arose in responses between the genders intheir rating of Helping as a career value, their belief that service should be an expected part ofthe engineering profession, and their belief that S-L projects have helped them learn how toapply the concepts they learned in class to real life problems.A quarter of all spring 2012 participants reported that S-L was one reason they came to thiscollege, or that it would have been if they had known about it. This included 23% of the men,but 35% of the women. Considering this study’s finding that S-L is especially attractive forwomen, engineering departments hoping to improve their female-male ratio should consider theintegration of S-L into their curriculum.
Barrington, L., & Reynaud, E., & Willard-Schmoe, E. (2013, June), Differences by Student Gender in Engineering Service-Learning Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/19449
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