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Intervention to Improve Self-Efficacy and Sense of Belonging of First-Year Underrepresented Engineering Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Enhancing the Underrepresented Student Experience

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.803.1 - 24.803.34



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Paper Authors


Kari L. Jordan Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kari L. Jordan earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University in 2006 and 2008 respectively. During her undergraduate tenure, she was an active member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and served on the Board of Directors. She was also the president of the ASEE student chapter at Michigan Tech. The recipient of a King-Chavez-Parks graduate fellowship and GEM Fellowship, Dr. Jordan completed a master of arts degree in Education and a Ph.D. in engineering education at Ohio State University.

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Sheryl A. Sorby Ohio State University

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Dr. Sheryl Sorby is a professor emerita of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics from Michigan Technological University. She currently is serving as a Fulbright Scholar at Dublin Institute of Technology. She recently served as a program director within the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation. Her research interests include graphics and visualization. The author of numerous publications and textbooks, she has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than $9 million in external funding.She was the recipient of the Betty Vetter research award through WEPAN for her work in improving the spatial skills and ultimately the success of women engineering students. Dr. Sorby currently serves as an associate editor for ASEE’s online journal, Advances in Engineering Education. In 2007, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Engineering Design Graphics Division of ASEE and in 2009 she was elected to Fellow status in ASEE.

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Intervention to Improve Self-Efficacy and Sense of Belonging of First-Year Underrepresented Engineering StudentsThe percentage of bachelor’s degrees in STEM awarded to women and underrepresentedstudents needs to increase dramatically to reach parity with their majority counterparts. Whilethree key underrepresented (URM) groups, African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and NativeAmericans constitute some 30 percent of the overall undergraduate student population in theUnited States, the share of engineering degrees earned by members of these groups declines asdegree level increases. Underrepresented students accounted for about 12% of engineeringbachelor’s degrees awarded in 2009, 7% master’s degrees and 3% of doctorates (NSF ScienceResource Statistics, 2009). The percent in engineering has been steadily decreasing, whileoverall participation in higher education among these groups has increased considerably.Keeping those thoughts in mind it is important to examine the historical theories and frameworksthat will help us not only understand why women and underrepresented students pursue andpersist in STEM majors in low numbers, but to also develop interventions to improve thealarming statistics that hamper engineering diversity.As indicated by our past two U.S. Presidents, there has been an increased discussion on thenational and state level regarding the number of students entering STEM disciplines in generaland underrepresented students in particular. Something happens between a student’s freshmanyear and the point they decide to either switch their major or dropout of school altogether. Someresearchers attribute the high dropout rate of women and underrepresented students in STEMprograms to low engineering self-efficacy (e.g. Jordan et al., 2011).A student’s engineering self-efficacy is his/her belief that he/she can successfully navigate theengineering curriculum and eventually become a practicing engineer. A student’s engineeringself-efficacy is formed by mastery experiences, vicarious experiences his/her physiological state,and social persuasions, especially student-professor interaction. Increasing the awareness of astudent’s engineering self-efficacy could potentially improve sense of belonging and persistencefor underrepresented students in engineering.The hypothesis of this study is that an intervention during the first semester of an incomingfreshman’s tenure can help improve their engineering self-efficacy, sense of belonging, andoverall retention in the engineering program. This study will therefore explore the followingresearch questions: 1. What are the differences in engineering self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and student- professor interaction for first-year underrepresented engineering students compared to majority students? 2. What factors or variables should be considered and/or addressed in designing an intervention to increase self-efficacy and likelihood of persistence amongst first-year underrepresented engineering students? 3. Can a small intervention during the beginning of the first semester improve a student’s sense of belonging, engineering self-efficacy, and student-professor interaction?There are certainly benefits of interventions designed to build support for, and mitigate barriersto, students’ preferred career paths. This study tests an intervention that is intended to increaseunderrepresented student’s sense of belonging in engineering, which could ultimately improvetheir engineering self-efficacy and persistence. The intervention is meant to be easily adaptablewith insignificant cost, making it attractive for Minority Engineering Program (MEP) and othersuccess program administrators to adopt.

Jordan, K. L., & Sorby, S. A. (2014, June), Intervention to Improve Self-Efficacy and Sense of Belonging of First-Year Underrepresented Engineering Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20695

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