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Model Eliciting Activities: An In Class Approach To Improving Interest And Persistence Of Women In Engineering

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Women in Engineering: Faculty/Curriculum

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.919.1 - 9.919.15



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Paper Authors

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Brenda Capobianco

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Judith Zawojewski

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Margret Hjalmarson

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P.K. Imbrie

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Deborah Follman

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3692

Model Eliciting Activities: An In-class Approach to Improving Interest and Persistence of Women in Engineering Heidi Diefes-Dux, Deborah Follman, P.K. Imbrie, Judith Zawojewski, Brenda Capobianco, and Margret Hjalmarson Purdue University West Lafayette, IN


A Model Eliciting Activity (MEA) is a real-world client-driven problem. The solution of an MEA requires the use of one or more mathematical or engineering concepts that are unspecified by the problem – students must make new sense of their existing knowledge and understandings to formulate a generalizable mathematical model that can be used by the client to solve the given and similar problems. An MEA creates an environment in which skills beyond mathematical abilities are valued because the focus is not on the use of prescribed equations and algorithms but on the use of a broader spectrum of skills required for effective engineering problem solving. Carefully constructed MEAs can begin to prepare students to communicate and work effectively in teams; to adopt and adapt conceptual tools; to construct, describe, and explain complex systems; and to cope with complex systems. Our conjecture is that MEAs provide a learning environment that is tailored to a more diverse population than typical engineering course experiences as they allow students with different backgrounds and values to emerge as talented. Further, we believe that adapting these types of activities to engineering courses has the potential to go beyond “filling the gaps” to “opening doors” to women in engineering. As part of an NSF funded Gender-Equity project, four MEAs were implemented in a first-year problem solving and computer tools course at Purdue University in Fall 2002. This paper will describe the nature of MEAs, overview the research methodology, and demonstrate evidence of curriculum reform at our institution.

I. Introduction

On the national scene, while overall enrollment and retention trends in engineering are alarming in the face of a national need to increase the technology workforce, the National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics1 reports some gains with regards to the enrollment and retention of women in science and engineering (S&E): • The percentage of women enrollment in engineering programs has increased from 16 percent in 1990 to 20 percent in 1999, with the total number of women enrolled in engineering increasing despite the decline in total engineering undergraduate enrollments from 380,000 to 361,000. • Data suggest that women and men have nearly equivalent attrition rates with "the percentage of freshmen women intending S&E majors in 1994 (27 percent) is close to the percentage earning S&E bachelor's degrees in 1998 (28 percent).”

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering

Diefes-Dux, H., & Capobianco, B., & Zawojewski, J., & Hjalmarson, M., & Imbrie, P., & Follman, D. (2004, June), Model Eliciting Activities: An In Class Approach To Improving Interest And Persistence Of Women In Engineering Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12973

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