Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
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  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 . 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. https://peer.asee.org/30730
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