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Engagement in Practice: Using STEM Outreach as a Platform to Improve Social Awareness and Learning Skills

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engaging Community through STEM partnerships

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Robert Schaffer Santa Clara University

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Dr. Bob Schaffer is a full-time lecturer at Santa Clara University where he teaches general Engineering classes and upper-division and graduate classes in Electrical Engineering. He also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Engineering department at Mission College (Santa Clara, CA). His classes include Introduction to Engineering, STEM Outreach in the Community, Digital Signal Processing, and Programming for Engineers.

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In STEM Outreach in the Community, students satisfy a mandatory “Experiential Learning and Social Justice” requirement through the creation and leading of engineering activities with elementary and high school students at four educational partner sites. Early versions of this class included the social outreach component and reading and response assignments and research papers where students learn about the impact of living in a low socioeconomic community. Students then reflect on the readings while integrating experiences from their outreach. More recent instances of the class have added in-class discussions on growth mindset, productive failure, stereotypes, stereotype threat, imposter syndrome, privilege, and bias. While the initial goal of integrating this material was to help guide their outreach, passages from reflection papers have suggested that students are being impacted in ways that are improving their college learning experience as well. This work will explore the details of the class and the associated assessment. To perform the assessment, three sources of information will be used: comments from the student evaluations of teaching, an end-of-the-quarter reflection paper written by each student, and a formal survey taken at the beginning and end of each quarter. One initial noteworthy result is that some female students have shared that they feel more empowered after discussing stereotype threat. Having vocabulary to articulate what they have felt while being underrepresented within the engineering department has helped them address some of the challenges they have faced. Next steps include a more rigorous look at student work to draw stronger conclusions.

Schaffer, R. (2019, June), Engagement in Practice: Using STEM Outreach as a Platform to Improve Social Awareness and Learning Skills Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32716

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