July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Exploring the Evolution of Engineering Students’ Feelings of Inclusion in Their College and the Broader Scientific Community.
This complete research paper discusses how students’ feelings of inclusion change throughout their undergraduate career. Student responses acquired through focus groups and one-on-one interviews were examined to determine how included the students felt in their engineering college and also the broader scientific community.
A small group of non-calculus ready engineering students enrolled in a large land grant institution in the Mid-Atlantic region consented to participate in the study. The student cohort participated in an NSF S-STEM funded program aimed at fostering a sense of inclusion in engineering by implementing a curriculum focused on cohort formation, career exploration, and professional development. The AcES, consisting of a weeklong pre-fall bridge experience, two common courses, and a variety of co-curricular activities, has been operating for eight years. Students who receive S-STEM funded scholarships participate in three focus groups and two one-on-one interviews each semester throughout their undergraduate studies.
Student responses from the one-on-one interviews and focus groups conducted from 2017-2020 were examined with qualitative coding methods. Questions examined in this work include: 1) Did the engineering and history course help make you feel like you belong in engineering at WVU and that you are included in engineering at WVU?, 2) Do you feel part of the group when working on projects in your engineering courses?, 3) Do you consider yourself a member of the scientific and engineering community here at WVU? Why or why not, and 4) Do you consider yourself a member of the broader scientific and engineering community?
During the exploratory coding phase three codes were established to represent the degree of inclusion felt by students: Edge of Inclusion, Slight Inclusion, and Feelings of Inclusion. Edge of Inclusion was characterized by student responses such as “almost there but not totally”, “just starting to be”, and “a little, I guess”, while student responses such as “yes, but only a little” and “in some classes or situations” were recognized as Slight Inclusion. Examples of student responses such as “yes, I do feel part of it”, “absolutely, since I’ve…”, and “I would consider myself part of . . .” were classified with the code Feelings of Inclusion.
Since the sample size was limited by scholarship funding, statistically significant results weren’t obtainable, but clear themes emerged that can be used to influence engineering curricula and serve as justification for an expanded study. Participating in an internship emerged as a major contributor to students feeling included in the broader scientific community. Interestingly, a decrease in the average degree of inclusion occurred after the students’ first semester, prior to increasing in later semesters. It is hypothesized that the emphasis on cohort formation, career exploration, and planned co-curricular activities during the first semester in the AcES program bolstered the initial feelings of inclusion.
A student’s feeling of inclusion is known to be a contributing factor in retention. The findings of this research indicate that internships should not only be strongly encouraged, but university resources should be invested in helping students be prepared for, apply to, and obtain internships. The researchers suggest the study be expanded beyond the AcES program to examine a broader sample and greater number of students.
Morris, M. L., & Dygert, J., & Hensel, R. A. (2021, July), Exploring the Evolution of Engineering Students’ Feelings of Inclusion in Their College and the Broader Scientific Community Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37151
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