Asee peer logo

Outreach Teaching, Communication, And Interpersonal Skills Encourage Women And May Facilitate Their Recruitment And Retention In The Engineering Curriculum

Download Paper |

Conference

2010 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Effective Methods for Recruiting Women to Engineering

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count

18

Page Numbers

15.933.1 - 15.933.18

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/15641

Download Count

31

Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Sara Atwood University of California, Berkeley

author page

Eli Patten University of California at Berkeley

author page

Lisa Pruitt University of California, Berkeley

Download Paper |

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

Outreach Teaching, Communication, and Interpersonal Skills Encourage Women and may Facilitate their Recruitment and Retention in the Engineering Curriculum Abstract

Women continue to be underrepresented in engineering and technology fields. Recent gains in gender equity in bioengineering and environmental engineering suggest that women are attracted to fields they view as contributing to society. Furthermore, it has been suggested that women’s choice to enter a particular field of engineering is related to their perceived strengths in areas such as communication and interpersonal skills. We incorporated an outreach teaching activity and emphasized communication and interpersonal skills in an undergraduate engineering course and found that women undergraduates had higher confidence than men in these areas and viewed these activities as most worthwhile for their career.

Structural Aspects of Biomaterials is an upper-level undergraduate course cross-listed with mechanical and bioengineering. The enrollment is typically about 50 students with an even gender split. The course emphasized outreach, communication, and interpersonal skills with a group project supported throughout the semester by a required skills lab. The project included an outreach teaching activity for 5th grade students at a local children’s science museum, a written report, and an oral presentation. The supporting skills lab taught technical writing and editing, oral presentation skills, and interpersonal skills linked to Felder’s learning styles.1 Student teams were assigned so that all majors, learning styles, and genders were represented in each team. The activities were assessed using four surveys throughout the semester.

Women undergraduates in the course ranked learning styles, teamwork, writing and presentation activities, and the outreach teaching activity more highly than men when asked what activities were most useful for their career. Interestingly, women also self-reported higher confidence than men in 7 of 11 of our learning objectives at the beginning of the semester, and 8 of 11 at the end of the semester. Areas of higher confidence for women included working and communicating effectively on a team with various learning styles and engaging the community about science. Areas of higher confidence for men included critically evaluating written and analytical work of themselves and others, and recognizing issues and technological advances in bioengineering. Assessment of learning styles in this course revealed that women were slightly more verbal, sensing, and active, while men were slightly more visual, intuitive, and reflective.

Our results suggest that incorporating outreach projects and emphasizing communication and interpersonal skills appeals to women in undergraduate engineering programs. This course could be used as a model for first-year courses to recruit and retain women in engineering. Furthermore, the outreach activity not only allows engineering students to contribute to society, but exposes young K-8 women to engineering and role models.

Introduction

Women continue to be underrepresented in engineering and technology fields. According to data compiled by the National Science Foundation on women in engineering and science in 2006,

Atwood, S., & Patten, E., & Pruitt, L. (2010, June), Outreach Teaching, Communication, And Interpersonal Skills Encourage Women And May Facilitate Their Recruitment And Retention In The Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. https://peer.asee.org/15641

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015