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Graduate Students Mentoring Undergraduates in Research: Attitudes and Reflections about these Experiences

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Conference

2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

ERM Potpourri

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

24

Page Numbers

25.678.1 - 25.678.24

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/21435

Download Count

23

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Paper Authors

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Janet Y. Tsai University of Colorado, Boulder Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/https://0000-0002-2917-0367

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Janet Y. Tsai is a doctoral student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, whose work examines and develops initiatives and curricular innovations to encourage more students, especially women, into the field of engineering. In addition to assessing peer mentoring programs, Tsai also explores teaching engineering statics through tangible sensations in the body, to feel and understand forces, moments, couples, equilibrium, and more via internal constructs instead of the conventional external examples.

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Daria A. Kotys-Schwartz University of Colorado, Boulder

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Daria Kotys-Schwartz is the Faculty Director for the Mesa State College-University of Colorado Mechanical Engineering Partnership program and an instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She received B.S. and M..S degrees in mechanical engineering
from the Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in mechanical rngineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Kotys-Schwartz has focused her research in engineering epistemology, engineering student learning, retention, and diversity. She is currently investigating the use of oral discourse method for conceptual development in engineering, the impact of a four-year hands-on design curriculum in engineering, the effects of service learning in engineering education, and informal learning in engineering.

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Beverly Louie University of Colorado, Boulder

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Beverly Louie is the Director for teaching and learning initiatives in the Broadening Opportunities through Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) Center in CU’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering from CU and a D.Phil. in mechanical engineering from the University of Oxford, England. Louie’s research interests are in the areas of engineering
student retention and performance, teaching effectiveness, and collaborative learning.

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Virginia Lea Ferguson University of Colorado

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Mechanical Engineering

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Alyssa Nicole Berg University of Colorado, Boulder

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Alyssa Nicole Berg is currently an undergraduate in mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is interested in the energy field and plans on attending graduate school.

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Abstract

Mixed-Methods Assessment of Research-Based Undergraduate Mentoring ProgramMentoring programs in colleges and universities across the nation are becoming increasinglyprevalent as a means to help both students and faculty persist in engineering. However, themajority of existing engineering mentoring programs lack rigorous assessment and consequentlysuccessful data driven mentoring models are difficult to find within the engineering educationcommunity.One-on-one mentoring relationships between 1st or 2nd year engineering undergraduate studentsand graduate student mentors were established and monitored during a semester-long formalresearch mentoring program at a large state university. Each undergraduate student was expectedto attend a weekly one hour seminar to learn more about the process of engineering research andwork three to five hours per week in a research lab, supervised by a graduate student mentor, inorder to earn one course credit. Pilot implementation of the program targeted underrepresentedminorities and female undergraduate students in the hopes that hands-on research experienceguided by a graduate student would improve undergraduate retention of these populations, apriority of the engineering college. The mentoring program also strived to increase interest inengineering careers and research for all students while providing graduate students withexperience mentoring younger engineers. Progress towards these goals was assessed through anexplanatory mixed-methods approach beginning with initial quantitative surveys, followed byqualitative weekly responses to online reflective questions, and concluded by a final round ofquantitative surveys including open ended qualitative questions. Both undergraduate studentsand graduate mentors were assessed though qualitative and quantitative means.The data from the eight mentee/mentor pairs in the program’s initial year suggest that theundergraduate mentees had generally positive experiences in the program (average programsatisfaction = 78, min 62, max 100 on normalized likert scale 0-100), and seven of the eightundergraduates believed they would continue pursuing engineering majors following programcompletion. The graduate students had a wider range of satisfaction with the program (averageprogram satisfaction = 56, min 33, max 79 on normalized likert scale 0-100). Qualitative datareveal that several graduate students felt like poor mentors due to difficulty relating to theirmentees or trouble defining a meaningful and relevant one-semester research project achievableby a 1st or 2nd year undergraduate. However, the majority of undergraduate mentees indicateincreased feelings of excitement towards engineering research and enhanced understanding ofthe engineering research process regardless of their mentor’s reported satisfaction.The results of this preliminary study indicate areas for programmatic and assessmentimprovements in subsequent years of the research program implementation and are relevant forsimilar mentoring programs at other institutions of higher learning. As mentoring programscontinue to be a major strategy for increased retention of women and underrepresentedminorities across the nation, the development of appropriate assessment tools to validate theeffectiveness of mentoring is critical.

Tsai, J. Y., & Kotys-Schwartz, D. A., & Louie, B., & Ferguson, V. L., & Berg, A. N. (2012, June), Graduate Students Mentoring Undergraduates in Research: Attitudes and Reflections about these Experiences Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/21435

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