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Investigation of Sense of Belonging to Engineering in Undergraduate Introductory Classes

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Postcard Session 2: Identity and Sense of Belonging

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Sura Al-Qudah Western Washington University

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Dr. Sura Al-Qudah is an assistant professor in the Engineering and Design Department at Western Washington University. She received her Ph.D. and M.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from State University of New York at Binghamton in August 2014 and August 2010 respectively, and her B.S. in Electronics Engineering from Yarmouk University, Jordan, in 2004.

Dr. Al-Qudah research areas of interest are in process improvement methodologies (Lean Six-Sigma), applied operations research, and engineering education pedagogies. Before joining WWU in the Fall of 2014, she worked as a graduate teaching and research assistant in the Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Department at SUNY Binghamton. She also served as an assistant instructor for Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training courses offered through SUNY Binghamton for six consecutive training courses since 2012.

Dr. Al-Qudah is a member of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), the American Society for Quality (ASQ), and Society of Women Engineers (SWE) professional societies, as well as Alpha Pi Mu honor society. Dr. Al-Qudah holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certificate.

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Jill Davishahl Bellingham Technical College

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Jill Davishahl is a faculty member in the engineering department at Bellingham Technical College where she teaches courses ranging from Intro to Engineering Design to Engineering Statics. Outside of teaching, Jill is working on the development of a Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Technology and is currently PI on the NSF funded ATE project grant in renewable energy as well as PI on an NSF funded S-STEM project. She holds a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington.

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Eric Davishahl Whatcom Community College Orcid 16x16

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Eric Davishahl is faculty and engineering program coordinator at Whatcom Community College. His teaching and research interests include developing, implementing and assessing active learning instructional strategies and auto-graded online homework. Eric has been a member of ASEE since 2001. He currently serves as chair of the Pacific Northwest Section and was the recipient of the 2008 Section Outstanding Teaching Award.

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Michael Andrew Greiner

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This work-in-progress paper investigates students’ sense of belonging in introductory classes in engineering and engineering physics. The research project involves students at three educational institutions with similar geographic location but with student bodies of differing demographics and character: a regional university; a community college; and a technical college. Studies have pointed to the effect of the lack of belonging among the classrooms, majors, and the institution in general on students’ retention rates and performance in future engineering classes. Sense of belonging has been identified as particularly important to the retention of underrepresented minorities (URM) and women. In a multi-year study published in the 2012 ASEE conference [1] researchers at five institutions conducted an extensive research study of belonging among STEM students in four categories; belonging to the classroom, belonging to the major, belonging to the institution as a resource; and belonging to the institution as a community. Results show a statistically significant difference in belongingness among those students in those four categories at the five institutions based on students’ classification. However, results suggested that hypothesizing a monotonic increase in the sense of belonging by year in school cannot be supported by the research findings and educators have to ultimately understand what impacts the sense of belonging and how to improve it over time during college years.

At each of the three educational institutions where this current study is performed, the percentage of students who are identified as URMs is about one-fourth of the overall engineering student population. As more initiatives have been emerging in these institutions to help increase diversity and inclusion, the researchers were motivated to conduct this study to improve the belonging of engineering pre-major students in STEM classrooms and their intended majors. This research explores the effect of embedding small interventions designed to improve engineering pre-major students’ sense of belonging and self-efficacy into traditionally taught Introduction to Engineering and Introduction to Engineering Physics classes. In addition, this study investigates the effect of the interventions on different student groups (women, first generation, students of color or ethnic background, community college vs. technical college vs. university students, etc.). This study has the potential to benefit first-year engineering education pedagogies by exploring the effectiveness of small interventions that can be embedded into busy course curriculums without significantly detracting from classroom time available for content directly connected to course outcomes. The three interventions used in this study include a first-day collaborative activity to establish classroom norms; a mid-quarter activity centered around growth mindset and metacognition; and a one-to-one instructor/student meeting.

The effectiveness of the interventions on increasing sense of belonging is assessed using a series of five Likert scale questions drawn from other belongingness surveys found in the literature [2]. The pre-course survey was administered during the first week of the term with nine questions embedded in a broader “Getting to Know You” survey. The post-course survey was administered during the last week of the term with the same nine questions embedded in a broader survey collecting student feedback on the effectiveness of various course learning activities (e.g. homework, projects, lectures, etc).

All work was completed with IRB approval and students identity protection. Qualitative and quantitative data analysis is being performed on the collected data. Researchers anticipate that the three interventions will improve student sense of belonging and will look to use the survey response data to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the interventions as perceived by the students.

Al-Qudah, S., & Davishahl, J., & Davishahl, E., & Greiner, M. A. (2018, June), Investigation of Sense of Belonging to Engineering in Undergraduate Introductory Classes Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30730

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