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Fostering Student Beliefs About Engineering and Mathematics Through Integrated Instruction (RTP)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Latanya Robinson Florida International University

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Latanya Robinson is a doctoral student pursuing her degree in STEM Education at Florida International University (FIU) and an FIU STEM Transformation Institute fellowship awardee. Her research interests include professoriate interdisciplinary collaboration, K-12 engineering education, and mathematics education.

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno Orcid 16x16

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Adam Kirn is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and their learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Candice Guy-Gaytán BSCS Science Learning


Joshua Alexander Ellis Florida International University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Joshua Ellis is an Assistant Professor of Science Education at Florida International University. His scholarly interests include facilitating the promotion of model-based and engineering-integrated science instruction through STEM integration. He also explores the design and creation of dynamic, student-centered online learning environments for educators.

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Upper elementary is where students begin to develop their STEM identities and connect their education and the real world. Research has found that students' perceived mathematics assets decline in upper elementary. Prior studies of integrated STEM teaching at the middle school level improved students' mathematics self-efficacy and instrumentality. The purpose of this study was to understand how an integrated teaching model (e.g., science, engineering, and mathematics) influenced fifth-grade students’ perceptions of their mathematics and engineering abilities. We sought to answer the following research question using a sequential mixed methods research design: how do 5th grade students' mathematics and engineering self-efficacy and instrumentality for abstract mathematics concepts change because of an integrated teaching experience?

We utilized Social Cognitive Theory to explore how students develop their perceived abilities and usefulness of their education through integrated instruction. Social Cognitive Theory explores students’ self-efficacy that encompasses context-specific perception of performance, interpretation of peer performance, influence of the social environment, and resulting feelings of competencies. It also considers the usefulness of knowledge or tasks (e.g., instrumentality) toward the future. These elements of motivation predict performance and can be leveraged by educators to support learning.

In this study, seventeen students from a Title-I elementary school worked in teams to design solutions that could provide access to clean water to residents. During the integrated unit, students were administered a pre-, mid-, and post-survey based on items developed from the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Survey, Mathematical Attitude Assessment, Engineering Skills Self-Efficacy Scale, and Intersectionality of Non-normative Identities in the Cultures of Engineering Survey four valid, and reliable instruments. The post-interviews captured students' perceptions of their motivations regarding engineering and mathematics. Using multiple data sources created a holistic understanding of how students’ perceptions of their abilities shifted throughout the integrated unit. Qualitative data were analyzed using directed content analysis. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and nonparametric comparative statistics. Quantitative and qualitative findings were mixed with weakness minimization used to strengthen the individual findings. Interpretive validity, internal validity, and intercoder reliability considerations were made during data handling and collection process.

Themes from the qualitative data included students’ perceived (1) usefulness of mathematics in future grade levels, (2) relevance of mathematics for other subjects, (3) use of mathematics in the students’ daily life, and (4) shifts in math confidence due to hands-on engineering applications. An explanation of these will be presented in the full paper. Quantitative data indicated an increase in self-efficacy and instrumentality mid-unit to post-unit. The combined findings revealed students’ improved mathematics self-efficacy and perceived instrumentality. Integrated teaching approaches may foster positive shifts in students’ perceived STEM abilities, both within a unit and beyond. This kind of instruction could allow students to use and build a broader range of perceived STEM abilities to solve a problem, rather than subject-specific instruction alone. For educators, integrated instruction may afford the opportunity to leverage a broad range of STEM assets to foster learning. By fostering students’ perceived STEM assets, interest, and continued participation in STEM fields may increase.

Robinson, L., & Kirn, A., & Guy-Gaytán, C., & Ellis, J. A. (2021, July), Fostering Student Beliefs About Engineering and Mathematics Through Integrated Instruction (RTP) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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