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Impact of MESH teaching strategies on Latinx and URM students’ self-reported engagement in online Environmental Engineering courses in a Hispanic Serving Institution

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2021 ASEE Pacific Southwest Conference - "Pushing Past Pandemic Pedagogy: Learning from Disruption"



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April 23, 2021

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April 23, 2021

End Date

April 25, 2021

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Margarita Otero-Diaz Humboldt State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Otero-Diaz obtain a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and a M.S.E. and Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan. Dr. Otero-Diaz is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Resources Engineering at Humboldt State University. Her research has centered on the interactions of chemical species with solid surfaces in a variety of contexts, environmental chemistry, water quality, and the physico-chemical aspects of contaminant fate, transport, and remediation. Since the completion of the ESCALA Certificate in College Teaching and Learning in Hispanic Serving Institutes, Dr. Otero-Diaz has focused on restructuring course formats and projects to include community-based-learning methods. Her current research assesses the impact of such methods on student perceived engagement and achievements.

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Melissa Salazar ESCALA Educational Services

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Melissa L. Salazar, Ph.D Education (UC Davis), MS Food Technology (UC Davis),and BS Chemistry/Chemical Engineering (UC Berkeley).

Dr. Salazar was an active researcher in the fields of immigrant health and dietary acculturation before before realizing that her true calling was in the field of education. She now has over 25 years of experience as a college instructor, curriculum developer, and teacher trainer. She also has taught 15 different math, science and education courses at four-year and two-year colleges in both northern California and throughout New Mexico. She formulated the idea for ESCALA in 2013, after moving to New Mexico and realizing the need for discussion in college level settings about the intersections of culture and power in the classroom, and how to improve learning outcomes for Latinx and Hispanic college students using research-based validation and instructional pedagogies. ESCALA is a school of professional development and offers programs on equity, culture, and teaching to college instructors in Hispanic Serving Institutions. To date ESCALA has delivered faculty and staff programming at more than 32 two and four year Hispanic Serving Institutions, and remains the only national organization that specializes in providing workshops for HSIs staff and faculty. Dr. Salazar created the ESCALA Certificate in College Teaching & Learning in HSIs, an innovative, 27-hour program that develops faculty into equity leaders in the classroom through a comprehensive equity analysis and study of their classroom teaching. More than 550 mostly STEM faculty across 24 HSIs have completed the Certificate program, and 50 of these HSI faculty are now employed by ESCALA to provide culturally responsive coaching in their programs. ESCALA proudly operates out of Española, New Mexico, a small town in northern New Mexico that has been home to Melissa’s family for more than 400 years.

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STEM departments in higher education still utilize a mostly individualistic and peer competitive framework, resulting in a ‘chilly climate’ for collectivist cultures that effectively encourage Latinx students to leave the discipline. Utilizing instructional methods congruent with collectivist cultural frameworks should create engagement and educative environments for students who have these existing cultural frameworks such as Latinos/as. The purpose of the study is to understand the methods utilized in the transition to virtual instruction during the pandemic that are most impactful to create higher engagement and achievement for Latinx students in environmental engineering courses.

This study tests this link between collectivist learning methods and student success by analyzing links between Latinx student achievement and their perceptions of their own learning with peer to peer based, non-competitive learning activities in environmental engineering undergraduate courses. The investigation is comprised of a study of (1) student grades and achievement on major assignments in Dr. Otero-Diaz’ three environmental engineering courses in Fall 2020 (virtual instruction), disaggregated by student ethnicity, gender, and first-generation status; and (2) the impact of the instructional changes on student’s perceived learning and engagement as evidenced by students’ responses to Canvas quizzes and CATME surveys conducted throughout Fall 2020. The student survey responses ask them to rate their level of engagement and learning on a series of collectivistic assignments such as in-class group work. The analysis will assess if high engagement in these collectivistic activities correlated with high student achievement in these assignments.

The study addresses the gap in the research between what instructors hope collectivistic assignments in STEM to do for students, and how STEM students perceive and experience these changes. In addition, by studying the responses and achievement of students by ethnicity, race, and other demographic information, this research will contribute to what these types of instructional changes can do for all students. The study focuses on three environmental engineering courses but will have results that could be potentially applied to other STEM courses.

Hypothesis: There should be no equity gap in the collectivistic assignments or final grades between Latinx students and their peers based on the implementation of several collectivistic instructional methods designed to increase Latinx students’ engagement in the course.

Research Question 1: How were collectivist assignments designed by the instructor experienced by students in their environmental engineering courses?

Research Question 2: How did student achievement on these assignments differ by ethnicity, gender, or first-generation status?

Otero-Diaz, M., & Salazar, M. (2021, April), Impact of MESH teaching strategies on Latinx and URM students’ self-reported engagement in online Environmental Engineering courses in a Hispanic Serving Institution Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Pacific Southwest Conference - "Pushing Past Pandemic Pedagogy: Learning from Disruption", Virtual. 10.18260/1-2--38235

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