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Perceived Barriers to Participation in Engineering:

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

New Research & Trends for Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1149.1 - 22.1149.18



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Paper Authors


Yvette Pearson Weatherton University of Texas, Arlington Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Yvette Pearson Weatherton received her Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science (Environmental Engineering) from the University of New Orleans in 2000. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Pearson Weatherton’s expertise is in the areas of air quality, including monitoring and modeling, and engineering education. She is currently PI or Co-PI on a number of NSF-funded engineering education projects including "UTA RET Site for Hazard Mitigation," "UTA REU Site for Hazard Mitigation," and "Focus On Retention in Cohorts of Engineering Students," which provided data for this study. Dr. Weatherton is a registered Professional Engineer in Louisiana.

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Stephanie Lynn Daza University of Texas at Arlington

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Dr. Daza’s work focuses on research methodology, theories of difference, and globalizing trends in educational policy and practice. Her work has been published in The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education and Race Ethnicity and Education. She completed her PhD in Social and Cultural Foundations with a focus on research methodology at The Ohio State University in 2006. Prior to this, Stephanie was a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia and a high school teacher in California.

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Vu V. Pham University of Texas, Arlington

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Proposed Topics/Sessions for this Paper:  New research and trends related to underrepresented minorities in engineering  Issues in recruiting, building and enabling diversity in engineering graduate education Perceived Barriers to Participation in Engineering: Why Underrepresented Groups Remain UnderrepresentedEngineering education faces a number of challenges, including the inadequate preparation,mentoring and socialization of women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities toengineering careers. Although there have been improvements in the numbers of engineeringdegrees awarded to people in these underrepresented groups over the past few decades, there isstill much work to be done to diversify the profession to reflect the country’s shiftingdemographics and to broaden perspectives used in developing new technologies and solvingcomplex problems.This study examines barriers that prevent successful enrollment and matriculation of studentsfrom underrepresented groups in engineering. Data includes surveys administered to high schoolmath and science teachers and their students. A total of 50 high school teachers and over 1,000high school students have been surveyed during the process of collecting assessment data for theNSF-sponsored ____ Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in Hazard Mitigation. Surveydata is illuminated and supported by data collected from teacher focus groups, classroomobservations and teacher-produced materials such as lesson plans and reflective papers.Additional data was collected by surveying undergraduate engineering students; 11 of the 65undergraduate students are participants in the NSF-sponsored ___ Research Experiences forUndergraduates (REU) in Hazard Mitigation.Math and science teachers most frequently cited the following five reasons for the lack of studentdiversity in engineering: (1) schools fail to encourage students, (2) peers influence students, (3)students feel that they do not fit in, (4) students are tracked out of the necessary classes and (5)students prefer to pursue other careers. Interestingly, teachers mostly did not cite the failure ofcurricula and instructional methods to consider learner differences as significant factors.However, high school students perceived that their science and math courses are geared more forWhite, Asian, and male students. Undergraduates in the REU program agree that classes aregeared for Asian students but did not perceive these classes as geared more for White studentsthan students of color or more for male students rather than females. In general, engineeringstudents largely agree that women and minorities are underrepresented in engineering becausethey prefer to pursue other careers. The perception that students feel that they do not fit in iswidely held among engineering undergraduates for all three underrepresented groups, but to ahigher degree toward students with disabilities. The data collected from the undergraduatestudents also compares the perceptions of students who fall into one or more of theunderrepresented groups to those of the remaining students.While there are similarities of perceived barriers among high school students, high schoolteachers, and undergraduates, the analysis of our data shows that perceptions are not uniformamong participants, but rather that they perceive curricula, instruction, student differences,engineering, and engineers differently. Our data suggests that approaches to diversifyingengineering need to be multipronged and differentiated.

Weatherton, Y. P., & Daza, S. L., & Pham, V. V. (2011, June), Perceived Barriers to Participation in Engineering: Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18886

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