April 30, 2020
April 30, 2020
October 10, 2020
There is a growing body of literature that documents how the majority of students who enter college as a STEM major switch out or drop out before graduation. The exit rates from STEM disciplines are even higher for women and other minority groups. In this work, we seek to contribute to the countermeasures by interviewing current mechanical engineering students at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in an effort to understand the factors that influence their continued persistence towards their degree. This study is based on an anti-deficit framework, meaning that it is aimed at learning from students who are successfully persisting in order to develop interventions that would provide critical support to students who may otherwise leave engineering.
The interview questions in this study are centered on three areas: (1) when participants’ interest in STEM began and what drew them to majoring in mechanical engineering, (2) how participants conceptualize the discipline of engineering and how strongly they personally identify with their understanding of the necessary skills or traits of an engineer, and (3) what challenges to academic success participants have faced and what supportive resources they rely on. In this list, the first area provides context for analysis of the subsequent items, the second area indicates the status of participants’ engineering identity, and the third area explores both their discouraging and encouraging experiences. We are primarily interested in investigating how students interact with academic obstacles, as their strategies for navigating college and their mindset influence persistence. In addition, at the end of the interview, demographic information is collected to allow for the discovery of any related patterns in the experiences of participants who associate with diverse identities.
Currently, transcription and a coding analysis is being performed on the 30-60 minute interviews from the 23 students who have participated so far to illuminate themes in student experiences and strategies. Data collected in this study informs the development of a peer-mentoring program within engineering at LMU, which seeks to improve students’ sense of community, provide strategies for overcoming challenges, and address other themes discovered in this study.
Schaal, N., & Richter, M. J., & Tiong-Smith, C. (2020, April), Full paper: Student persistence in STEM: Exploring the experiences of mechanical engineering students at Loyola Marymount University Paper presented at Proceedings of the 2020 ASEE PSW Section Conference, canceled, Davis, California. https://peer.asee.org/36253
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