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Exploring K-12 Teachers' and School Counselors’ Beliefs about Engineering in High School: A Case Site in Virginia (Fundamental)

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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

Pre-College Engineering Education in the Formal Classroom

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Kai Jun Chew Virginia Tech

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Kai Jun (KJ) Chew is a PhD student in the Virginia Tech Engineering Education department. In the past, he has been involved in the engineering education field by working with Dr. Sheri Sheppard, engaging in multiple projects, such as ABET accreditation, curriculum redesign and others.

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Cheryl Carrico P.E. Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Cheryl Carrico is a part-time faculty Research Scientist for Virginia Tech and owner of Cheryl Carrico Consulting, LLC. Her current research focus relates to STEM career pathways (K-12 through early career) and conceptual understanding of core engineering principles. She is currently a Member-at-Large for the Pre-college Division of ASEE. Dr. Carrico's consulting company specializes in research evaluations and industry consulting. Dr. Carrico received her B.S. in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech, Masters of Engineering from North Carolina State University, MBA from King University, and PhD in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Dr. Carrico is a certified project management professional (PMP) and licensed professional engineer (P.E.).

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Holly M. Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Dr. Holly M. Matusovich is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education. She is current the Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Programs and the former Assistant Department Head for Graduate Programs in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. Dr. Matusovich is recognized for her research and practice related to graduate student mentoring. She won the Hokie Supervisor Spotlight Award in 2014, was nominated for a Graduate Advising Award in 2015, and won the 2018 Graduate Student Mentor Award for the College of Engineering. Dr. Matusovich has graduated 10 doctoral students since starting her research program in Spring 2009. Dr. Matusovich co-hosts the Dissertation Institute, a one-week workshop each summer funded by NSF, to help underrepresented students develop the skills and writing habits to complete doctorate degrees in engineering. Across all of her research avenues, Dr. Matusovich has been a PI/Co-PI on 12 funded research projects including the NSF CAREER Award with her share of funding be ingnearly $2.3 million. She has co-authored 2 book chapters, 21 journal publications and more than 70 conference papers. She has won several Virginia Tech awards including a Dean’s Award for Outstanding New Faculty, an Outstanding Teacher Award and a Faculty Fellow Award. She holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University, an M.S. in Materials Science from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Through this study, we examine the gatekeepers that influence Virginia high school students’ decision to pursue engineering degrees. Gatekeepers are defined as systemic elements that intersect and interact with students’ high school careers. Examples include teachers, school counselors, principals, school location and neighborhood. In this analysis, we focus specifically on the perspectives of teachers and school counselors. This analysis is part of a larger explanatory mixed-method project that leverages a state-wide longitudinal data set of high school students with interviews at specific case sites to understand macroscopically and microscopically what and how the gatekeepers influence students’ decision-making process to major in engineering. The goal of the overarching project is understanding the systemic structures that can affect students’ decision in majoring in engineering, particularly groups that are underrepresented in the engineering population.

The purpose of this qualitative study is to, using Eccles’ Expectancy-Value Theory as a theoretical lens, examine the teachers and counselors’ beliefs about engineering. Thus, our research questions are: 1) What are the beliefs about engineering of teachers and school counselors in a high school in Virginia? And 2) What are the preliminary observations on the similarities and differences of those beliefs about engineering among the teachers and the school counselors? According to EVT, socializer’s (teachers and counselors) beliefs (about what engineering is) can affect their behavior (description of engineering to students), which can influence students’ self-perception and interpretation of engineering. These perceptions and interpretations, in turn, influence students’ goals, identities, and possible selves. Ultimately, resulting in subjective task values (interest, usefulness, attainment, and cost) related to choosing to major in engineering (or not).

The primary data for this analysis are interviews with teachers and counselors at a single high school within our larger data set. The selection of the case sites for the qualitative part of the overarching project was informed by the analysis of the state-wide longitudinal data set. Purposeful sampling was used to select teachers who teach math, science, engineering and other STEM-based courses and counselors who regularly interact with students. An emergent coding process was conducted to explore and extract themes and categories that answer our research questions.

Results show there are several dimensions to socializers’ perceptions of engineering, particularly beliefs regarding engineering as a field. Many perceived that engineering was a math and science based field. Some believed that engineering was a male-dominated field and believe it was important to encourage underrepresented students to major in engineering. Our findings demonstrate that as we research and recommend practices regarding engineering as a career choice, consideration for the context of people and place matters. Our findings may also provide insight on ways to “move the needle” as encouraged in the NAE report “Changing the Conversation.”

Chew, K. J., & Carrico, C., & Matusovich, H. M. (2019, June), Exploring K-12 Teachers' and School Counselors’ Beliefs about Engineering in High School: A Case Site in Virginia (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32807

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