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Guidance Counselors’ Beliefs and Expectations about High School Students' Precollege Engineering Preparation

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Research and Models for Professional Development

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.761.1 - 22.761.13



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Paper Authors


Mitchell J. Nathan University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Mitchell J. Nathan is Professor of Educational Psychology, Curriculum & Instruction, and Psychology, in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and past chair of the Learning Sciences program. He is a research fellow at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and at the Center on Education and Work. He uses experimental and discourse-based research methods to understand the cognitive, social and embodied nature of STEM learning and instruction. He is currently co-principal investigator of the AWAKEN project in engineering education, along with Professors Sandra Shaw Courter and L. Allen Phelps.

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Amy Kathleen Atwood University of Wisconsin, Madison


Amy C. Prevost University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Ms. Prevost is a doctoral student in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her research is focused on the STEM career pipeline, especially related to engineering, engineering education and the molecular biosciences. In addition to her work in education research, she is also the Director of scientific courses at the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute in Madison, WI, where she coordinates curricula in the area of molecular biology.

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Natalie A. Tran California State University, Fullerton

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High School Guidance Counselors’ Beliefs and Expectations about Precollege Engineering PreparationMotivationThe National Research Council calls for educational leaders to optimize knowledge-basedresources and energize the United States’ STEM career pathway. High school guidancecounselors (GC) play an important role in shaping students’ course-taking decisions, post-secondary education and career choices. Yet less is known about GCs’ views on advisingstudents about future studies and careers in engineering or the criteria with which GCs evaluatestudents’ preparation or predict their likelihood of engineering success.MethodWe documented GCs’ views using the Engineering Education Beliefs and ExpectationsInstrument (EEBEI-C; modified for counselors) administered on-line. We also compared theviews of GCs whose schools did and did not participate in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), aformal, precollege engineering curriculum program adopted by over 15% of US high schools.Thus, findings based on its use have far-reaching implications.The majority of respondents in the initial sample (N = 125) were white (84%) and female (60%).53% came from PLTW certified schools.In addition to the Likert scale items, GCs were presented with vignettes of four fictional studentsin order to elicit their views in a less overt, and more situated manner. The vignettes weredesigned to investigate the influence of two factors on GCs advising: student academic abilitiesand family social/cultural background. This underlying design was not explicitly stated toparticipants.Results and ConclusionsAnalyses of responses to Likert scale items revealed nine reliable constructs (α ≥ .70), withsample means falling midway on the scales. GCs in PLTW (n = 67) and non-PLTW (n = 58)schools hold many common views regarding advising for enrollment in precollege engineeringcourses and expectations for future engineering careers: advising was often shaped by students’academic performance; GCs believe students sometimes receive explicit connections betweenscience or math content to engineering activities; GCs generally agree that high academicperformance in math, science and technology courses is pre-requisite to a career in engineering;and GCs believe that one’s cultural or social background has no effect in their decisions aboutadvising students to pursue a career in engineering.Statistically significant differences between PLTW and non-PLTW GCs were also found. GCs inPLTW schools perceive greater availability of school resources for engineering education (p <.001). GCs in PLTW schools were also more likely than non-PLTW GCs to agree that collegepreparatory skills and concepts in math and science are effectively integrated with students’engineering activities (p = .02).The vignettes provide insights into tacit views GCs may hold as they make recommendationsabout specific, fictional student cases. GCs are generally inclined to recommend enrollment inprecollege engineering courses for all of the students, but low academic achievement led 25% ofGCs to advise a student away from engineering studies. Although GCs report that socio-economic status (SES) does not influence advising decisions, comparative analyses show SESdoes implicitly influence GCs’ beliefs about who should enroll in engineering courses, andexpectations of who will succeed in future engineering careers, x2McNemar(1) = 57.02, p = .0001.SignificanceWhile GCs overall report that academic factors do and socio-economic factors do not influenceadvising decisions, the comparative analyses across vignettes showed that both academic andsocio-economic factors influenced GCs’ beliefs about who should enroll in engineering courses,and expectations of who will succeed in future engineering careers. Given the equity goals ofpublic education and the potential of technical careers to benefit historically under-servedgroups, this suggests that greater attention to these tacit views needs to be addressed during staffdevelopment in the schools and the pre-engineering training programs of GCs.

Nathan, M. J., & Atwood, A. K., & Prevost, A. C., & Tran, N. A. (2011, June), Guidance Counselors’ Beliefs and Expectations about High School Students' Precollege Engineering Preparation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18042

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