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Increasing Student Understanding of Diversity/Inclusion Issues in a First-Year Engineering Classroom

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2020 First-Year Engineering Experience


East Lansing, Michigan

Publication Date

July 26, 2020

Start Date

July 26, 2020

End Date

July 28, 2020

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Jerry Austin Yang University of Texas at Austin Orcid 16x16

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Jerry Austin Yang is an electrical engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin. His interests include the experiences of marginalized groups in engineering and diversity and inclusion in engineering education.

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Nina Kamath Telang University of Texas at Austin

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Nina Telang is an associate professor of instruction in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She received the B.Tech degree in Engineering Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai in 1989, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 1992 and 1995 respectively. Her teaching interests are in the area of circuits and devices, computing, and logic design. Dr. Telang works closely with success programs for freshman engineering students.

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[This paper is a work-in-progress.] More attention is turning to increasing diversity and inclusion in engineering education as a means to recruit and retain first-year engineering students from underrepresented backgrounds in engineering, and more engineering educators are implementing novel pedagogical techniques to make engineering courses more diverse and inclusive. In this paper, we present initial results of a novel diversity/inclusion-based pedagogical approach to the first-year introduction to computing course at the University of Texas at Austin, implemented during the Fall 2019 semester. This pedagogical approach consisted of group active learning activities in class, diversity/inclusion-based programming assignments, and careful selection of a diverse teaching team. One section of the course, containing about 100 students, was used as the target population. To measure the effectiveness of the diversity/inclusion approach on sense of belonging, engineering identity, and student beliefs about diversity and inclusion, we designed a longitudinal panel study that compares student responses to a survey addressing these issues at three time points: at the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester, at the end of the Fall 2019 semester, and at the end of the Spring 2020 semester. A repeated-measures ANOVA was conducted on the results from one inventory on the survey to investigate whether students’ perceived understanding of diversity and inclusion issues had changed during the course of the semester as a result of the class (n = 36). The ANOVA results show that at the end of the course, students perceived themselves to have a statistically significantly stronger understanding of certain specific diversity and inclusion issues that were discussed through the course content, whereas they perceived themselves to have no change or a statistically significantly weaker understanding of diversity and inclusion issues that were not discussed as part of the course content (F[1, 4] = 0.13, p << 0.001). This may imply that implementing diversity and inclusion-oriented curricula is one approach to highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in engineering to first-year students. Furthermore, we suggest that such curricula may have lasting effects on students as they become socialized into the engineering profession. In the future, we intend to examine interest in diversity and inclusion issues based on race and gender identity as well as the relationships between diversity/inclusion interest, sense of belonging, and engineering identity using our dataset. We reflect on possible avenues for further improvements to the course under study as well as implications for practice in general.

Yang, J. A., & Telang, N. K. (2020, July), Increasing Student Understanding of Diversity/Inclusion Issues in a First-Year Engineering Classroom Paper presented at 2020 First-Year Engineering Experience, East Lansing, Michigan.

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