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Measuring adaptive expertise amongst first-year STEM students

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2022 Spring ASEE Middle Atlantic Section Conference


Newark, New Jersey

Publication Date

April 22, 2022

Start Date

April 22, 2022

End Date

April 23, 2022

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Alexander John De Rosa Stevens Institute of Technology (School of Engineering and Science)

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Alexander De Rosa is a Teaching Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. He gained his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in 2015 and his M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College London in 2010. Dr. De Rosa is currently working in the areas of deeper learning and knowledge transfer, and has published various articles in the field of spatial skills training and assessment.

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Frank T Fisher Stevens Institute of Technology (School of Engineering and Science) Orcid 16x16

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Frank T. Fisher is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, where he served as the Interim Department Director / Department Chair from April 2013 to August 2018. He earned BS degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh, and Masters degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Learning Sciences (School of Education and Social Policy) and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern. His research interests include characterization of multifunctional nano-reinforced polymer systems, multiscale modeling of nanocomposites and materials, vibration energy harvesting/scavenging, and engineering pedagogy and instructional technologies. Awards that he has received include the NSF CAREER award, the 2016 Alexander Crombie Humphreys Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor award (Stevens), the 2014 Distinguished Faculty Mentor Award from the Stevens Student Government Association, the 2009 ASEE Mechanics Division Outstanding New Educator Award, and the 2009 Outstanding Teacher Award from the Stevens Alumni Association.

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Ashley Lytle

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Ashley Lytle is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA. Lytle earned her PhD at Stony Brook University, New York, USA. Her research explores how prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping impact academic, social, and health outcomes among marginalized groups. Much of her research has focused on better understanding prejudice toward older adults, sexual minorities, and women, with the goal of creating simple, yet effective, interventions to reduce prejudice.

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Engineering programs must weave coverage of disciplinary content with the ability of students to apply and extend this content knowledge to new contexts and for use in their professional practice as engineers. It is, therefore, necessary for schools to promote and cultivate additional dispositions within their students that better enable them to adapt and employ their disciplinary knowledge. The concept of an “adaptive expert” (AE) has been previously developed within the learning sciences to describe an individual with deep content knowledge but who also displays additional cognitive characteristics that better enable them to employ their knowledge and skills in practice. Four constructs have been identified in the literature as forming the basis of this adaptive expertise: 1) multiple perspectives, 2) metacognition, 3) goals and beliefs, and 4) epistemology.

Upon entry to an engineering program, it is likely that students will present with different levels of development and awareness within these particular dimensions. Baseline levels must, therefore, be measured in order to assess these levels of development and before research-based practices and activities can be designed to promote growth in these constructs, and the gains measured. In this work-in-progress study, the “adaptiveness” of incoming undergraduate students (n=711) is measured using a previously developed, validated survey instrument used in other studies to measure levels of adaptive expertise amongst undergraduate students by determining their levels along the four identified dimensions of AE.

Based on this survey data, statistically significant differences were found in the AE constructs for men and women, with women outscoring men in three of the four AE subscales (MP, META, EPIST) and men outscoring women in goals and beliefs (GB). White students were found to score statistically higher than Asian students in both multiple perspectives (MP) and goals and beliefs (GB), while no statistically significant differences were observed when White and Black students were compared. The mean epistemology (EPIST) scores for White, non-Hispanic students was statistically higher than Hispanic students, and non-low-income students also scored higher than low-income students on this subscale.

Further conclusions about the meaning of these results are currently difficult to determine as no prior baseline for measured data exists. [Blinded for review (information about larger project that this data will be used in) longitudinal measurement of AE after AE interventions are used to support student growth in AE]

De Rosa, A. J., & Fisher, F. T., & Lytle, A. (2022, April), Measuring adaptive expertise amongst first-year STEM students Paper presented at 2022 Spring ASEE Middle Atlantic Section Conference, Newark, New Jersey. 10.18260/1-2--40057

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