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Examining How Skill-building Workshops Affect Women’s Confidence over Time

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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

Liberal Education Division Technical Session Session 12

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Megan Keogh University of Colorado, Boulder

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Megan Keogh is an undergraduate student studying environmental engineering and environmental policy at the University of Colorado Boulder. Megan has been involved in education outreach and mentorship for much of her college career. She completed a STEM education class in which she shadowed a local 5th grade teacher and taught three of her own STEM lessons. Megan has also been a new-student mentor through her department’s peer mentoring program. Now, Megan is interested in researching how team dynamics affect undergraduate women’s confidence levels in engineering.

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Malinda S. Zarske University of Colorado, Boulder

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Malinda Zarske is a faculty member with the Engineering Plus program at the University of Colorado Boulder. She teaches undergraduate product design and core courses through Engineering Plus as well as STEM education courses for pre-service teachers through the CU Teach Engineering program. Her primary research interests include the impacts of project-based service-learning on student identity - especially women and nontraditional demographic groups in engineering - as well as pathways and retention to and through K-12 and undergraduate engineering, teacher education, and curriculum development. She is passionate about hands-on engineering design for every student, at every age level.

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Janet Y. Tsai University of Colorado, Boulder Orcid 16x16

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Janet Y. Tsai is a researcher and instructor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on ways to encourage more students, especially women and those from nontraditional demographic groups, to pursue interests in the field of engineering. Janet assists in recruitment and retention efforts locally, nationally, and internationally, hoping to broaden the image of engineering, science, and technology to include new forms of communication and problem solving for emerging grand challenges. A second vein of Janet's research seeks to identify the social and cultural impacts of technological choices made by engineers in the process of designing and creating new devices and systems. Her work considers the intentional and unintentional consequences of durable structures, products, architectures, and standards in engineering education, to pinpoint areas for transformative change.

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Universities across the country are implementing hands-on group activities in the classroom because there is evidence that they improve long-term material retention and critical thinking skills [1][2]. A study at Oregon State University found that working in teams gives students opportunities to communicate with others, set group expectations, and practice conflict resolution,​.​ all of which are skills that are highly desired in industry [3]. A major goal of implementing groupwork into the classroom is to prepare students for integration into the workforce, yet students are not learning technical and non-technical skills equally in these types of settings. Many studies have shown that women frequently take on stereotypically feminine roles such as being the team secretary or project manager while men work on more stereotypically masculine aspects like coding and manufacturing[4][5].

The role of confidence ​and self-belief in the ways women and men take on technical and non-technical roles in project teams requires further study.​ ​One way of addressing the different incoming levels of technical confidence among students is to provide out-of-class, skill-building workshop opportunities that students can elect to enroll in to increase their comfort and ​e​xposure to specific technical domains​. In 2003, the University of Colorado piloted a women’s-only skill-building workshop to help women build the fundamentals they need to feel comfortable working on technical roles in group projects. Students worked in small teams assemble a project requiring the use of several tools like lathes, saws, and a drill press. A similar pilot course was taught more recently at the University of Florida with women-only and co-ed sections. Both studies found similar results: Women enjoyed learning in the low-stress, grade-free environment of a workshop and they felt empowered after learning how to use tools [6][7].

A degree-granting program at The University of ________________ is focused on teaching students engineering material in a hands-on, collaborative setting. One of the degree requirements is that students must take three Engineering Design Projects classes in which student teams design and prototype various products. Students in the program take several technical skill-building workshops as part of their project and personal development. In light of the literature review, the department faculty is interested in determining how effective these skill-building workshops are at helping women feel more comfortable in technical roles, both while they are in a projects class and after course completion. Our primary research question is: “How do skill-building workshops affect a woman’s self-confidence in engineering over time?” We take a qualitative approach to answer this question. All students in the projects classes are asked to take a survey right after they finish a workshop, at the end of the semester, and a semester after they complete a projects course. These surveys will help us to gauge how confident students feel about their skills over time and what aspects of workshops to change or keep. To triangulate with the data in the surveys, we will also look at team peer evaluations and team growth plans to see what types of roles students are taking on in group projects. The goal of this study is to identify areas of improvement in the skill-building workshops and in the engineering projects classes such that all students have equitable learning experiences.  References: [1] S. Medha “Cooperative Learning Strategies For Large Classes” Paper presented at 1998 ASEE Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington, USA June 28-July 1 1998. ​ [2] E. Koehn “Collaborative Learning In Engineering Classrooms” Paper presented at 2000 ASEE Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri, USA June 18-21, 2000. [3]​ ​N.D. Mallette, M.K. Bothwell, and C. Kelly “Developing an Integrated Curriculum-wide Teamwork Instructional Strategy​”​ Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, June 24-27 2018. ​ [4] M. Dyrud (1999, June), “Getting A Grip On Groups​” ​Paper presented at 1999 ASEE Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA June 20-23, 1999. ​ [5] L.A. Meadows and D. Sekaquaptewa “The Influence of Gender Stereotypes on Role Adoption in Student Teams” Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia, USA June 23-26 2013. ​ [6]​ P​ .L. ​Dickrell, P. L. “Building Skills in Engineering: Hand and Power Tool Workshops for Confidence and Retention” Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah, USA June 24-27 2018. ​ [7]​J. Sullivan and D. Knight, “Women's Manufacturing Workshops” Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee, USA ​June 22-25​ ​ ​

Keogh, M., & Zarske, M. S., & Tsai, J. Y. (2019, June), Examining How Skill-building Workshops Affect Women’s Confidence over Time Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32779

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