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Evaluating a High School Engineering Community of Practice: The Perspective of University Liaisons (Evaluation)

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division (PCEE) Technical Session 7: Partnerships Making It Real! II

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division (PCEE)

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Paper Authors


Sabina Anne Schill Florida International University

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Dr. Sabina Schill is a postdoctoral scholar at Florida International University working with Dr. Bruk Berhane on Engineering For US All (e4usa), a high school curriculum that aims to democratize engineering. Sabina received her BS in Physics from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT, and her PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder. Sabina has research interests in the areas of K-12 engineering education, mentoring, and identity development.

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Stacy S. Klein-Gardner Vanderbilt University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Stacy Klein-Gardner serves as an Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University. She is the co-PI and co-Director of the NSF-funded Engineering For Us All (e4usa) project. She is also the co-PI and co-Director of the Youth Engineering Solutions (YES) Middle School project focusing on engineering and computational thinking. Dr. Klein-Gardner is a Fellow of ASEE.

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Introduction Despite years of research and practice, there remains a need to broaden participation in engineering. The NSF-funded research study [PROGRAM] addresses this issue by providing engineering curricula and professional development for high school teachers. [PROGRAM] also engages in building and maintaining a Community of Practice (CoP). The CoP model allows for strategic partnerships to create lasting connections between high schools and various community partners. Community partners include stakeholders such as school counselors, school administrators, district officials, parents, university liaisons, community liaisons, and industry representatives that cultivate a local ecosystem to support students and teachers in this pre-college engineering education initiative. Since the roles and responsibilities of community partners vary, this paper focuses on one type of partner: university liaisons. Within the CoP, university liaisons voluntarily commit their knowledge and expertise to support high school teachers during professional development and curriculum implementation. Each liaison typically supports up to two high schools. Liaisons also engage with each other via Slack, an online communication platform.

Objective Our paper examines how university liaisons engage with the CoP in [PROGRAM]. The goals of this study are to: 1) Capture aspects that are currently viewed as exciting or challenging for university liaisons, and 2) Understand ways in which [PROGAM] could facilitate further involvement of these university liaisons in the CoP.

Methods After obtaining IRB approval, we conducted virtual focus groups with five liaisons from distinct universities who work with eight [PROGAM] schools. Two focus groups averaged 60 minutes long; liaisons discussed their relationships with their partner high schools, resources through [PROGRAM], and education and outreach at their universities. The semi-structured format of the focus groups allowed liaisons to respond to each other and elaborate on their thoughts in a casual atmosphere. The focus groups were recorded and two coders are currently analyzing the transcripts.

Results Analysis is ongoing. Initial findings suggest that university liaisons enjoy the experience of engaging with high school teachers and students, especially when they can bring students to campus and share their institutions’ engineering programs. As a proposed program change, liaisons are interested in more structure to the CoP. For example, high school teachers currently meet virtually as small groups for scheduled check-ins; university liaisons expressed interest in a similar monthly meeting to discuss their experiences and share resources and recommendations with other liaisons.

Conclusions This paper evaluated the perceived experience of university liaisons in a CoP within [PROGRAM]. Findings provide direction on the best way to support current and future liaisons. These results may also be applicable to other programs that aim to cultivate lasting relationships between K-12 educators and postsecondary institutions.

Schill, S. A., & Klein-Gardner, S. S. (2023, June), Evaluating a High School Engineering Community of Practice: The Perspective of University Liaisons (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--43416

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