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Perspectives on the Learning Environment: Classroom Culture and Social Transactions at an HBCU

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Poster Session

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1038.1 - 25.1038.12



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Paper Authors


Afiya C. Fredericks Howard University

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Afiya Fredericks is a Ph.D. student in Developmental Psychology at Howard University. There, she works as a Graduate Assistant with the Department of Civil Engineering. Her graduate research focus includes teacher expectations, implicit theories of intelligence, and the academic performance of minority students, specifically in STEM fields. Frederick’s research seeks to contribute to the extant literature and the field of education through the investigation of factors that promote academic persistence and strategies that instructors and policy makers can utilize to improve the quality of education for all students.

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Lorraine N. Fleming P.E. Howard University


Jennifer O. Burrell Howard University

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Jennifer O. Burrell is a Ph.D. student in Developmental Psychology at Howard University..Burrell is a Graduate Research Assistant with the Department of Civil Engineering at Howard University. Her dissertation research explores how using culturally relevant pedagogy can increase students’ motivation and create pathways to academic success, particularly in STEM. Through her research and evaluation of education programs and interventions, she hopes to improve the schooling experiences of public school students by promoting the use of evidence-based practice (and practice-based evidence).

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Ashley R. Griffin Howard University

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Perspectives on the Learning Environment: Classroom Culture and Social Transactions at an HBCUCritical to the quality of the higher education experience is the learning environment. Classroomculture and the peer to peer and instructor to peer transactions that occur within the learningenvironment play a significant role in student academic performance. Recently, there have beengreat demands that have been placed on the United States to produce a competent, diverse,globally engaged STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) workforce, who canaddress the critical challenges facing our nation. Therefore, it is imperative that research focuson the learning experiences of this particular group of students. The present research addressesthe current concerns through employing a mixed method approach to understand the classroomculture and social transactions of African American male engineering students at an HBCU,utilizing their authentic voice.Social cognitive theories of motivation have investigated the meanings associated withcognitions about abilities and attributions. Informing the current research, one such theory thatseeks to explain students’ intent for pursuing and persisting at different academic tasks within thelearning environment is the achievement goal theory. This theory suggests that if studentsperceive the environment as emphasizing learning and improvement, students are more likely topursue mastery goals and seek to deeply understand the material, whereas, if students perceivethis environment as emphasizing grades, high ability and besting others, they are more likely topursue performance goals. There is reason to believe that the former theory is moreadvantageous, encouraging mastery and learning.The current study utilizes a mixed-methods approach. Quantitative data was collected from 53randomly selected African American male engineering students in survey form. The survey wasutilized to collect student demographics as well as data on students’ achievement goal orientationand social transactions. A semi-structured interview was utilized to gain insight into elementspresent within the classroom as observed by the students. Lastly, focus groups were conductedto gain additional insight on the nature of consensus on the learning environment withinengineering at the HBCU.Preliminary results of the study reveal that meaningful learning, faculty support, peer support,networking and motivation were emergent themes. More specifically, working with peers,instructor support and connecting familiar concepts with new material, were found to positivelyaffect the learning environment and ultimately the academic experience. Conversely, the lack ofinstructor support, poor instruction and unrealistic expectations were factors that negativelyaffected the learning environment. Currently, data analysis is still underway. However, thecurrent research can inform educators and researchers on strategies that if utilized in theengineering classroom can effectively enhance the learning environment, reduce attrition,increase academic performance and ultimately aid in the production of well needed, competentminority engineers.

Fredericks, A. C., & Fleming, L. N., & Burrell, J. O., & Griffin, A. R. (2012, June), Perspectives on the Learning Environment: Classroom Culture and Social Transactions at an HBCU Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21795

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