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Measuring Students’ Class-level Sense of Belonging: A Social-network-based Approach

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

ConstDiv Technical Session 3 - Social & Leadership

Tagged Division

Construction Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Dong Zhao Michigan State University Orcid 16x16

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Dong Zhao is an Assistant Professor of Construction Management and an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Michigan State University. He is a LEED AP certified by US Green Building Council. Prior to joining MSU, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Virginia Tech where he earned his PhD. His research focuses on the computational integration of human information into construction work and training systems. He has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and serves as a member of several national committees and an editor or reviewer for many international journals and conferences. Some of his honors include receiving the Best Journal Paper Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

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Denise Rutledge Simmons P.E. University of Florida Orcid 16x16

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Denise R. Simmons, Ph.D., PE, LEED-AP, is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida. She holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in civil engineering and a graduate certificate in engineering education – all from Clemson University. She has over ten years of construction and civil engineering experience working for energy companies and as a project management consultant.

Dr. Simmons has extensive experience leading and conducting multi-institutional, workforce-related research and outreach. She is a leader in research investigating the competencies professionals need to compete in and sustain the construction workforce. She oversees the Simmons Research Lab (SRL), which is home to a dynamic, interdisciplinary mix of graduate researchers who work together to explore human, technological and societal interactions to transform civil engineering practice with an emphasis on understanding hazard recognition, competencies, satisfaction, personal resilience, organizational culture, training and social considerations.

As a researcher, Dr. Simmons passionately pursues workforce research characterizing, expanding, sustaining, measuring and training the technical and professional construction workforce in the US. The broader impact of this work lies in achieving and sustaining safe, productive, diverse, and inclusive project organizations composed of engaged, competent and diverse people.

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Meltem Duva Michigan State University

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Meltem Duva is a PhD student and graduate research assistant in the Construction Management Program in the School of Planning Design and Construction at the Michigan State University. She holds a B.S. degree in architecture and M.S. degree in construction management. She has worked for several companies and projects prior to starting PhD.
Meltem Duva pursues her PhD on the social network interventions on the Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) projects. Her research is focused on the social network analysis to evaluate and improve the sustainability performance of the AEC projects.

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Social interaction with peers has long been recognized as one of the critical factors for facilitating the learning process. Extant studies have investigated the impact of social ties and structural network position on academic performance and find that social ties are positively associated with academic performance. Social ties are important to construction engineering which highlights interpersonal collaborations in construction projects. However, little to no research has shed light on the impact of social ties on students’ sense of belonging at the class level. The objective of this paper is to develop a social-network-analysis (SNA) based measurement that can be used to assess a student’s class-level belonging. In reaching such a goal, the authors distribute a survey to multiple construction classes across multiple institutions in the United States. Data (N=70) are collected to verify the performance of the measurement in assessing class-level sense of belonging. Results show that the measurement is highly reliable and consistent across demographic attributes including gender, race, ethnicity, and academic grade through cross-validation while being sensitive to different classes. Results reveal that white students often have a higher sense of class belonging than their African American classmates. Results also identify a significant relationship between a student’s class-level belonging and his/her group-level network centrality. The findings imply that a student who has a more central position in a study group may not have a higher sense of class belonging. Further, the findings suggest that SNA-based measurement is able to assess a student’s sense of class belonging.

Zhao, D., & Simmons, D. R., & Duva, M. (2019, June), Measuring Students’ Class-level Sense of Belonging: A Social-network-based Approach Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33093

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