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Mentoring Correlates to Characteristics of University K12 Outreach Programs: Survey Findings (Fundamental)

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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 Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Sabina A. Schill University of Colorado Boulder

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Sabina is an environmental engineering PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. She received her BS in Physics from Westminster College, SLC in 2015, and spent a year tutoring K-12 students in math before entering graduate school. Sabina participated in the NSF-funded GK-12 Fellowship program in 2016-2017, and in 2019-2020 was a recipient of CU Boulder's Chancellor's Award for Excellence in STEM Education.

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Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where students learned about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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Background Effective mentorship of undergraduate students by faculty in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has been recognized by the National Academies as an avenue to address issues of diversity and identity. However, undergraduates themselves may also partake in mentorship, such as in K12 STEM outreach programs. There exists an opportunity to examine mentoring in this context. Purpose This paper presents analysis of a survey within a larger study that aims to cultivate a better understanding of STEM identity development in undergraduate student mentors in K12 STEM outreach programs. Study results may contribute to efforts to promote identity development in undergraduates, with primary focus on bolstering identity among women and minorities such that student retention may be affected. A first step toward achieving this goal is to better understand if and how mentoring occurs in outreach programs. This paper addresses this through the research question: Do K12 STEM outreach program characteristics differ between programs that are and are not believed to foster mentoring relationships between university and K12 students? The program characteristics of interest include goals, K12 to university student ratio, duration, “cohort” experience among students, etc.

Methods This research follows a phenomenographical methodology to study various experiences of the phenomenon “mentoring in K12 STEM outreach programs” through the lens of identity theory. Therefore, the survey portion of the research aimed to reach a variety of different kinds of university-run K12 STEM outreach programs; it served to provide background information about these programs and supplied a pool of potential participants for the next qualitative phase of the research. The survey was developed following a pilot study where 8 program coordinators and 19 university students were interviewed on their experiences in outreach. The IRB-approved online survey was sent to university K12 STEM outreach program coordinators (identified via program webpages) along with distributions to ASEE’s CED, ERM, and PCEE divisions. This survey asked program coordinators to describe up to four outreach programs at their university, including program characteristics, perceptions of mentoring, and perceptions of impact on undergraduate students. Data collection is complete; analysis is in progress using statistical analyses including chi square tests.

Results In total, 61 programs coordinators completed the survey enough to yield a useable response (where at least one program was fully described). 131 distinct programs were represented from 47 universities. In response to the question “Do you believe [program] fosters mentoring?” there were 77 “yes,” 30 “maybe/unsure,” and 24 “no.” The program coordinators believed these programs fostered mentoring due to many face-to-face interactions between K12 and college students (95%), open communication between K12 and college students (86%), and explicit training of college students on mentoring (40%). Additional data analysis on program characteristics in relation to fostering mentoring is ongoing.

Conclusions Results from this survey will contribute a better understanding of the phenomenon of “mentoring in K12 STEM outreach programs.” Results will also provide a base for further studies, including an ongoing qualitative study by the authors examining potential connections between this phenomenon and undergraduate students’ STEM identities.

Schill, S. A., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2021, July), Mentoring Correlates to Characteristics of University K12 Outreach Programs: Survey Findings (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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