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Engineering Allies: The Personalities of Cisgender Engineering Students

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Experiences of Diverse Students

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

12

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28248

Download Count

94

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Paper Authors

biography

Jacqueline Ann Rohde Clemson University

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Jacqueline Rohde is a senior undergraduate student in Bioengineering at Clemson University. Her research in engineering education focuses on the development student identity and attitudes with respect to engineering. She is a member of the National Scholars Program, Clemson University’s most prestigious merit-based scholarship. She is also involved in efforts to include the Grand Challenges of Engineering into the general engineering curricula at Clemson University.

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno

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Adam Kirn is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and their learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Allison Godwin Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-0741-3356

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Allison Godwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses what factors influence diverse students to choose engineering and stay in engineering through their careers and how different experiences within the practice and culture of engineering foster or hinder belongingness and identity development. Dr. Godwin graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education. She is the recipient of a 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. She has also been recognized for the synergy of research and teaching as an invited participant of the 2016 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium and 2016 New Faculty Fellow for the Frontiers in Engineering Education Annual Conference. She also was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow for her work on female empowerment in engineering which won the National Association for Research in Science Teaching 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

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Abstract

This research paper investigates how students who self-identify as cisgender might hold different personalities and engineering attitudes than students who identify as either male or female and do not identify as cisgender. The word “cisgender” is used to describe an individual who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth and is often used to avoid the marked-unmarked dynamic in discussions of gender. Cisgender is still a rather new label, only entering into use in 1994. The recent introduction of this terminology makes cisgender self-identification a specific marker of individuals who have an nuanced understanding of gender beyond the widely accepted binary of only male or female. An individual might begin to utilize cisgender as an identifier through many pathways, including questioning their gender identity, interests in social justice, or desires to be an informed ally. We hypothesize significant differences may occur between students who voluntarily add another component to their gender identity when compared to students who are presumably cisgender but remain unmarked.

The research draws from a larger study conducted at four large public universities examining the non-normative attitudes of first-year engineering students and how these attitudes might affect their collegiate experience and the development of their engineering identity. Within the survey demographics section, students were asked to report their gender with as many options as they felt appropriate to describe themselves. Students were given the option to respond “male,” “female,” “cisgender,” “transgender,” “agender,” “genderqueer,” and/or “a gender not listed.”

Of the students surveyed, 2,697 identified themselves as male or female. Of this population, 55 students additionally identified themselves as cisgender. A Welch’s t-test revealed that factors relating to engineering identity were significantly different between cisgender students who self-identified and those who did not. Self-identified cisgender students possessed higher scores on factors measuring components of engineering identity, such as Physics Performance/Competence beliefs (p = 0.001, Cohen’s d = 0.412). These students were also rated as higher on Openness from the “Big 5” personality measures (p = 0.006, Cohen’s d = 0.403), and scored significantly lower on Conscientiousness from the “Big 5” personality measures (p = 0.028, Cohen’s d = 0.343).

These data highlight the differences between cisgender identified and non-identified students. Higher Openness results indicate that cisgender students are significantly more attentive of individuals’ inner feelings and may seek out more variety in their experiences than their non-cis-identified peers. Lower Conscientiousness scores reveal that cisgender students, on average, are less likely to conform to traditional cultural norms. Additionally, stronger scores relating to engineering identity indicate that cisgender-identified students feel that they belong in engineering. Together, these findings suggest that cisgender students possess traits and attitudes that could position them as ambassadors to or changemakers within engineering culture. Future research will work to understand these differences qualitatively to inform ways in which these individuals may serve as allies or “bridgers” for individuals within engineering who do not conform to gender and sexual orientation binaries.

Rohde, J. A., & Kirn, A., & Godwin, A. (2017, June), Engineering Allies: The Personalities of Cisgender Engineering Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28248

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