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Interventions to Improve Mentoring Over an Eight-Session Out-Of-School Workshop for High School Students (Work in Progress)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Katherine Dornian University of Calgary

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Katherine is a Masters student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary. Their interests are in informal education and mentorship as ways to attract broader audiences in engineering.

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Laleh Behjat P.Eng. University of Calgary

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Dr. Laleh Behjat is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Calgary. Her research interests include designing computer chips, electronic design automation and developing software for computer hardware. She has won several awards for her work on the development of software tools for computer engineering. In addition, Dr. Behjat has a passion for increasing the status of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Dr. Behjat was the recipient of the 2015 Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) Women in Engineering Champion Award.

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___ is an out-of-school program that teaches digital skills, primarily the creation of simple computer games, to high school students. In addition to the out-of-school format, the program uses active project-based learning and formal mentorship to help students realize their potential as engineers. In order to reach more students across the province and to address limitations imposed by physical distancing mandates, the program was moved online in the Spring of 2020.

This research seeks to find opportunities in such digital skills programs where the active learning format or mentoring approach can be used to increase positive outcomes of the program.

Using an online platform during the 2020 workshop, the research team integrated feedback tools (i.e. surveys) for student assessment. Based on The Mentoring Functions Scale [1] and existing mentoring frameworks [2, 3] we chose to measure vocational support, psychosocial support, and role modeling in the program. Using surveys, the research team assessed the changes in outcomes during the program, primarily: academic intentions, friendship, digital competence (self-assessed), and digital creative activities modeled by the mentor.

In this paper, we investigate how outcomes change over the program and identify strengths and weaknesses of such out-of-school digital skills programs. Based on what’s been observed in similar mentoring research [4, 5], we would expect to see statistically significant increases in academic intentions and digital creative activities while seeing digital competence remain stable for participants who remain involved. However, given that participant attendance with the program typically decreases over time [6], we also compare data of students who do and do not stay in the program to the end. As seen in related mentoring research [2, 5], we would expect that psychosocial factors like relatability would have the greatest impact. We go on to investigate if measurable interactions correlate with higher scores on the survey questions, and how other factors like vocational support and role modeling interact.

Surveys are administered at the beginning and end of each session to measure participant’s academic intentions to pursue engineering, friendship with the mentor, perceived digital competence and involvement in creative digital activities. In this paper, we track the change in outcomes over the course of the program and show trends in the data. With this, we make suggestions for interventions to help mentors improve their practice and help mentees to realize their potential in engineering.

[1] R. A. Noe, "An Investigation of the Determinants of Successful Assigned Mentoring Relationships," Personnel Psychology, vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 457-479, 1988. [2] E. K. Pellegrini and T. A. Scandura, "Construct Equivalence across Groups: An Unexplored Issue in Mentoring Research," Educational and Psychological Measurement, vol. 65, no. 2, pp. 323-335, 2016, doi: 10.1177/0013164404268665. [3] Y. Chen, R. Watson, and A. Hilton, "A review of mentorship measurement tools," Nurse Educ Today, vol. 40, pp. 20-8, May 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2016.01.020. [4] H. Stoeger, X. Duan, S. Schirner, T. Greindl, and A. Ziegler, "The effectiveness of a one-year online mentoring program for girls in STEM," Computers & Education, vol. 69, pp. 408-418, 2013, doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.07.032. [5] J. Clarke-Midura, F. Poole, K. Pantic, M. Hamilton, C. Sun, and V. Allan, "How Near Peer Mentoring Affects Middle School Mentees," presented at the Proceedings of the 49th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education - SIGCSE '18, 2018. [6] [redacted]

Dornian, K., & Behjat, L. (2021, July), Interventions to Improve Mentoring Over an Eight-Session Out-Of-School Workshop for High School Students (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37376

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