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Engineering Faculty Perceptions of Diversity in the Classroom

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Action on Diversity - Engineering Workforce & Faculty Training

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

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Paper Authors


Kelly J Cross University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dr. Cross completed her doctoral program in the Engineering Education department at Virginia Tech in 2015 and worked as a post-doctoral researcher with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At UIUC she has collaborated with multiple teams of engineering faculty on implementing and assessing instructional innovation. Dr. Cross is currently a Research Scientist in the Department of Bioengineering working to redesign the curriculum through the NSF funded Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) grant. She is a member of the ASEE Leadership Virtual Community of Practice that organizes and facilitates Safe Zone Training workshops. Dr. Cross has conducted multiple workshops on managing personal bias in STEM, both online and in-person. Dr. Cross’ scholarship investigated student teams in engineering, faculty communities of practice, and the intersectionality of multiple identity dimensions. Her research interests include diversity and inclusion in STEM, intersectionality, teamwork and communication skills, assessment, and identity construction. Her teaching philosophy focuses on student centered approaches such as problem-based learning and culturally relevant pedagogy. Dr. Cross’ complimentary professional activities promote inclusive excellence through collaboration.

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Stephanie Cutler Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Stephanie Cutler has a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her dissertation explored faculty adoption of research-based instructional strategies in the statics classroom. Currently, Dr. Cutler works as an assessment and instructional support specialist with the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State. She aids in the educational assessment of faculty-led projects while also supporting instructors to improve their teaching in the classroom. Previously, Dr. Cutler worked as the research specialist with the Rothwell Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence Worldwide Campus (CTLE - W) for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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Broadening participation and enhancing diversity remain a challenge in STEM disciplines. Many universities have strategic diversity plans; however, very few include an assessment of program success or utilize faculty as a primary vehicle to achieve the desired outcomes. Previous work suggests faculty play a key role in promoting diversity in higher education and creating an inclusive environment in the classroom. Few studies have explored faculty perceptions of their role in promoting diversity and a single study identified factors that contribute to faculty applying strategies to promote diversity concepts within the course content. Additionally, previous research has highlighted the need for departmental and institutional support for faculty interested in adopting teaching practices that promote diversity and inclusion. Therefore, it is important that we understand the motivations and supports needed for STEM faculty to include diversity concepts in the classroom to promote inclusivity. The guiding research questions for the current study are: 1) What perceptions do faculty hold about diversity and inclusion?; 2) How do faculty’s personal experience with diversity and inclusion impact how they integrate diversity and inclusion in their classroom?; 3) How can we effectively use professional development to aid faculty in creating more inclusive and diverse learning environments?

The data reported here is from the pilot for a larger case study design informed by the institutional change models and faculty motivation. Taking lessons from recent engineering education research that describes strategies that encourage faculty to adopt instructional innovations, we paralleled our research to capture faculty practices of implementing diversity concepts into engineering course content. The pilot included 10 engineering faculty participants who represented all faculty ranks and both research and teaching tenure tracks. The participants completed a short survey with multiple open-ended questions, followed by individual interviews exploring responses and allowing further clarification. The faculty came from two large research intensive universities with strong engineering reputations (five from each university). The survey was administered through a commercially available data collection software program and the individual interviews were audio recorded.

The results from this initial pilot study discuss how our faculty participants defined diversity and inclusion, the resources they view as important to promoting diversity and inclusion, how their personal experiences inform their views on diversity and inclusion in the classroom, and what they would look for in professional development around diversity and inclusion.

Cross, K. J., & Cutler, S. (2017, June), Engineering Faculty Perceptions of Diversity in the Classroom Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28253

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