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Engineering Classroom Environments: Examining Differences By Gender And Departments

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

The Impact of Engineering Disciplines

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.501.1 - 13.501.16



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Paper Authors


Rose Marra University of Missouri

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ROSE M. MARRA is an Associate Professor in the School of Information Science and Learning
Technologies at the University of Missouri. She is PI of the NSF-funded Assessing Women and
Men in Engineering (AWE) and Assessing Women In Student Environments (AWISE) projects.
Her research interests include gender equity issues, the epistemological development of college
students, and promoting meaningful learning in web-based environments.

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Barbara Bogue Pennsylvania State University

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BARBARA BOGUE is Co-PI of AWE and AWISE and Associate Professor of Engineering
Science and Mechanics and Women in engineering. Her research interests include STEM
programming, career development and assessment.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Engineering Classroom Environments: Examining Differences by Gender and Departments Abstract

This paper reports on one year of data from a study of classroom learning environments in three engineering departments, which differ in size, discipline and pedagogical methodology, at a large eastern university. This study uses a quasi-experimental design to confirm or deny what is commonly cited in engineering education literature about gender differences in preferences for teaching and learning activities (e.g. cooperative teams). The results show that the differences found among students in the three different departments studied were based on departmental differences and do not support the commonly held view that men and women experience teaching and learning activities differently based upon gender. Departmental differences between engineering students are also supported by other current studies.


Differences in the way males and females experience the classroom learning environment are often discussed as being critical in the recruiting and retaining of women in engineering programs. Yet high quality data to support this idea is not readily available. This paper reports on year one results of the NSF-funded Assessing Women in Student Environments project (AWISE). This project is using validated instruments to collect gender and departmental comparative data on men and women engineering students’ experiences in engineering classrooms.

The need to tap into the talent pool of women students to meet the needs of the engineering workforce of the future is well documented1, 2. Effective efforts to accomplish this goal must be undertaken at the institutional level and involve all stakeholders. Women in Engineering (WIE) programs to enhance the recruitment and retention of women engineering students remain an important component of our nation’s efforts to accomplish this goal.3, 4 As or more critical to the success of women students studying engineering is gaining an understanding the impact of classroom learning environments on students and devising ways to improve those environments.

The AWISE project addresses the need for gender-comparative survey assessments and research of specific core engineering curricular experiences that impact male and female students differently (e.g. team interactions, student to student interactions). AWISE uses a multi-year student and faculty self-report survey methodology to examine perceptions of classroom climate and student reports of learning activities and their effectiveness within three departments representing 30% of the total undergraduate engineering students at a large eastern United States engineering school. This paper examines the results of the first year of data collection for AWISE and addresses whether there are differences in perceptions, perceived value, impact of classroom activities between men and women, among ethnic minority and majority students, and in the experience of all students in engineering departments of differing disciplines, size and pedagogical methodologies.

Marra, R., & Bogue, B. (2008, June), Engineering Classroom Environments: Examining Differences By Gender And Departments Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3189

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