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First-year Student Assumptions on Diversity in Engineering Education

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Conference

2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015

ISBN

978-0-692-50180-1

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 3: Diversity and Multicultural Influences in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

26

Page Numbers

26.778.1 - 26.778.26

DOI

10.18260/p.24115

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/24115

Download Count

72

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Paper Authors

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Chirag Variawa Northeastern University

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Dr. Chirag Variawa teaches first-year engineering design at Northeastern University. He received his Doctorate in Industrial Engineering, focusing on Language Inclusivity in Engineering Education from the University of Toronto. His undergraduate degree is from the same institution, from the Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering.

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Susan F Freeman Northeastern University

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Susan Freeman, is a member of Northeastern University’s Gateway Team, a group of teaching faculty expressly devoted to the first-year Engineering Program at Northeastern University. The focus of this team is on providing a consistent, comprehensive, and constructive educational experience that endorses the student-centered, professional and practice-oriented mission of Northeastern University.

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Kathryn Schulte Grahame Northeastern University

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Dr. Kathryn Schulte Grahame is an Assistant Academic Specialist at Northeastern University. As part of her Gateway Faculty appointment she teaches freshman engineering courses as well as undergraduate civil engineering courses.

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Kris Jaeger-Helton Northeastern University

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Beverly Kris Jaeger, PhD has been a member of Northeastern University’s Gateway Team, a select group of full-time faculty expressly devoted to the first-year Engineering Program at Northeastern University. Recently, she has joined the expanding Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at NU to continue teaching Simulation, Facilities Planning, and Human-Machine Systems. She also serves as a Technical Advisor for Senior Capstone Design and graduate-level Challenge Projects in Northeastern’s Gordon Engineering Leadership Program. Dr. Jaeger has been the recipient of numerous awards in engineering education for both teaching and mentoring and has been involved in several engineering educational research initiatives through ASEE and beyond.

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Courtney Pfluger Northeastern University

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Dr. Courtney Pfluger received her Doctoral degree in Chemical Engineering from Northeastern University in 2011. In the fall of 2011, she took a position as an Assistant Teaching Professor at Northeastern University in the College of Engineering as a part of the First Year Engineering Faculty with a focus on chemical engineering. She teaches the first year courses where are Engineering Design and Engineering Problem Solving. She also teaches senior Chemical Engineering Process Controls. She runs a faculty led international summer program to Sao Paulo, Brazil which focuses on Alternative Energy Technologies and Brazilian Culture.

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Richard Whalen Northeastern University

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Dr. Richard Whalen is a Teaching Professor at Northeastern University in Boston, MA and a core member of the Engineering Gateway Team. The focus of this team is on providing a reliable, wide-ranging, and constructive educational experience that endorses the student-centered and professionally-oriented mission of the University. He also teaches specialty courses in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern and has published and presented papers on approaches and techniques in engineering education. He has won multiple Outstanding Teaching Awards at Northeastern and numerous Best Paper and Best Presentation Awards with fellow Gateway coauthors at ASEE.

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Abstract

First-year Student Assumptions on Diversity in Engineering EducationIn engineering education, we are seeing an increasing trend towards greater diversity in theclassroom. This diversity comes in a variety of forms including: age, gender, ethnicity, and othersocial identities, and extends to both the student and instructor population at many NorthAmerican universities. Though there is much work in investigating the features of diverselearning environments, there is limited work in the area that bridges student assumptions in first-year engineering and diversity in the classroom. The need to investigate this area becomesincreasingly important as instructors try to design and understand strategies for creating inclusivelearning environments.Fostering an inclusive learning environment is a goal of engineering educators, especially at thefirst-year level. As students enter university, they bring with them a wealth of learning andexperience that may reflect their diverse backgrounds. Similarly, faculty may also bring newknowledge into their role as instructors, often borne from their international experiences. Withpotentially such differences in knowledge and perspective, the potential for learning barriers toaffect the inclusivity of classroom instruction is high. As a first step towards investigating theeffects of diversity on the interface between students, instructors and the learning environment, agroup of instructors at a large North American institution has initiated a study on studentassumptions.The research study attempts to tabulate and investigate relationships between pre-conceived first-year student assumptions –if they exist– and actual data on diversity in a multiple sections of anengineering course at a North American university. The approach used is to anonymously andrandomly survey approx. 400 first-year engineering students, asking them to self-report anyassumptions they may have about faculty in general and also their learning environment.Specifically, a survey was administered shortly after classes began, asking participants to reflecton any assumptions they may have had about the characteristics and level of diversity theyexpected to see in their engineering classrooms. This, and other information, was used to gaugewhether students had a particular mindset of what their class, including their professor, would“look like”. The participants were also asked to self-report the gender of any engineeringinfluencers that may have affected the student’s decision to pursue engineering in the first place.All of these data were codified into theme areas and compared to existing information about thediversity of our student body.Preliminary data suggest that students are highly-confident, expect a culturally-diverse but“nerdy” learning population, while expecting generally homogenous, non-diverse instructors.The goal is to better understand the mindset of our students, including up-to-date assumptionsthey bring so that as educators we can better design their learning environments to reducemisconceptions in the classroom. An outcome of this project includes a set of theme areas thatcan form the foundation for future studies that attempt to design and mitigate learning barriers indiverse engineering classrooms -- for the purpose of creating more inclusive learningenvironments for all students.

Variawa, C., & Freeman, S. F., & Schulte Grahame, K., & Jaeger-Helton, K., & Pfluger, C., & Whalen, R. (2015, June), First-year Student Assumptions on Diversity in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24115

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015