Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Women in Engineering
Universities provide informal educational opportunities to cultivate girls’ STEM interests and identities in an effort to increase female representation in STEM careers. Incorporating ARTs into STEM, the STEAM ACTIVATED! program was implemented to increase the ‘Sustainable Construction Engineering’ knowledge, interests, and self-efficacy of 31 middle-school girls. Self-efficacy is having a ‘can-do’ attitude that increases coping behavior, identity formation, and persistence. Following the Bandura model for improving self-efficacy, the 5-day program engaged girls in: (1) Mastery experiences through hands-on ‘Construction Engineering’ projects, dance, and field trip; (2) Vicarious experiences through teamwork, peer mentoring, competitions, and oral presentations; (3) Verbal persuasion through coaching, instruction, story-telling, and peer mentoring; and (4) Physiological states through reflections, I-CAN statements, power poses, and fine and performing art. Data analysis of pre and post-tests, pre and post self-reporting 5-point Likert scale surveys, focus group sessions, and reflection sheets showed that this program had been effective. The 91% increase in Sustainable Construction Engineering knowledge, 7.41% increase in self-efficacy, and 7.35% increase in STEM attitudes were all statistically significant (p<0.01). The girls’ strongest sources of self-efficacy were from observing peers (vicarious experiences), encouragement from parents (verbal persuasion), positive attitudes from fine and performing arts (physiological states), and continuous improvement and completion of projects (mastery experiences). While 16.13% of the girls provided no responses, most of the other girls demonstrated strong Arts identities with focus on: dance (32.26%), drawing (22.58%), singing (19.35%), music (6.45%), and baking (3.23%). The girls loved the opportunity to integrate their personal and group preferred arts into their STEM projects. At the end of the program, the girls were classified into four STEAM groups based on combinations of their STEM and Arts attitudes: 1) High STEM/High Arts attitude (83.87%); 2) High STEM/Low Arts (6.45%); 3) Low STEM/High Arts (6.45%); and Low STEM/Low Arts (3.23%). Overall, 90.32% of the girls expressed positive feelings towards the Arts-infused STEM projects; while 87% demonstrated some interest in dance-infused STEM learning. During their glue stick project oral presentation, one team developed a dance and used body movements to demonstrate tension, compression, shear, bending, and torsion. A strong overall mean rating (x̅ = 4.20) was obtained for learning experiences at the Dance Studio as the girls strongly agreed that the dance movements increased their understanding of engineering concepts such as tension, bending, surface areas, center of gravity, three-dimension, and foundations. The STEAM ACTIVATED! program increased the percentage of girls interested in engineering careers from 42% to 61.29%. Formation of engineering identities (EI) was estimated by combining girls’ STEM attitude (SA) scores with engineering career interest (ECI) scores; and grouping girls into four EI groups. The following percent changes in the populations of the four EI groups before and after the program indicated positive program impacts on girls’ EI: Group 1 – Strong SA and strong ECI (+19.35%); Group 2 – Strong SA and weak ECI (-9.68%); Group 3 – Weak SA and strong ECI (0%); Group 4 – Weak SA and Weak ECI (-9.68%). Forty-eight percent (48%) of these girls have already submitted applications for the follow up STEAM ACTIVATED! program funded through a recent Engineering Information Foundation grant. Best practices, lessons learned, and outcomes of this innovative and effective program for improving STEM self-efficacy, career interests, and engineering identities are discussed. Insights will be valuable to educators and researchers committed to increasing female representation in STEM careers.
Ofori-Boadu, A. N. (2018, June), Improving Middle-School Girls’ Knowledge, Self-Efficacy, and Interests in ‘Sustainable Construction Engineering’ through a STEAM ACTIVATED! program Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30631
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