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Promoting Inclusive Engineering Identities in First-Year Engineering Courses

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Rebecca A Atadero Colorado State University

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Rebecca Atadero is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University, specializing in structural engineering. She conducts research on the inspection, management and renewal of existing structures, and on engineering education.

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Christina Paguyo Colorado State University

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Christina H. Paguyo, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the College of Engineering at Colorado State University. Her research interests focus on mixed methods approaches for designing and examining educational environments grounded in research, theory, and equity. She has co-authored peer-reviewed articles published in the Peabody Journal of Education and the Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education.

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Karen E Rambo-Hernandez West Virginia University Orcid 16x16

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Karen E. Rambo-Hernandez is an assistant professor at West Virginia University in the College of Education and Human Services in the department of Learning Sciences and Human Development. In her research, she is interested the assessment of student learning, particularly the assessment of academic growth, and evaluating the impact of curricular change.

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Heather Lysbeth Henderson West Virginia University

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With a background in English, philosophy, science, and all levels of education, Heather is currently a doctoral student in curriculum and instruction and educational psychology. She is interested in psychological barriers affecting retention and success for students. Having been raised by an engineer, this project is close to her heart.

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This poster will be based on an ongoing NSF-funded study aimed at teaching issues of diversity and inclusion to engineering students in a way that is relevant to the engineering context. To frame our study, we use a theory of identity development that is intertwined with a sociocultural theory of learning, where students increasingly identify as engineers and learn how to become engineers by participating in engineering practices. Subsequently, institutions and educators are responsible for creating educational environments that enable students to not only access engineering practices, but also participate in engineering practices in meaningful ways. Through designing and implementing educational environments for students, we aim to cultivate identity development as a process that engages students in forming their own definition of the engineering profession and engaging in sense-making to reconcile their existing identities with their new engineering identity. Furthermore, identity development is a social process in that students must be recognized by others as engineers. The aim of our project is to investigate ways instructors of first-year engineering courses can help students to both develop their own engineering identities and to recognize their classmates as emerging engineers, by helping students to develop more inclusive definitions of what it means to be an engineer.

This project starts from the premise that all types of diversity––for example different personal characteristics, varied backgrounds and experiences, and unique skill sets––enhance engineering practice by bringing in new perspectives that lead to innovation and by helping to make engineering more responsive to the societies it seeks to benefit. We have thus sought to find and develop research-based and evidence-driven course activities that allow students to recognize how their own individual skills and histories can align with and bring value to engineering, and activities that demonstrate how working with diverse individuals is essential for innovation. During the first year of the grant we collected baseline data in two first-year engineering courses taught without particular emphasis given to identity development or diversity issues. This poster will focus on the intervention activities we designed and integrated into these classes in the second year of the project. These activities include: (1) a welcome presentation from the dean emphasizing the need for engineers to be able to work with different types of people and the importance of inclusion to our school’s college of engineering, (2) a discussion about the realities of working in engineering by a panel of professional engineers including individuals representing identity diversity followed by a self-reflection assignment for students, and (3) an interactive theater sketch where students learn about ways to work with different types of people. In addition to presenting these specific activities, we will show preliminary survey results for how these activities impacted student engineering identity development and appreciation for diversity in engineering. All students were surveyed five times. The fall 2014 serve as the comparison group for the students surveyed in fall 2015 who participated in the diversity and inclusion activities. Data will be analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling to account for the repeated measures within student. The multiple data points will allow us to more specifically map trends in student trajectories for engineering identity and appreciation for diversity. We will also determine if students of different backgrounds (e.g., women, underrepresented minorities) experience different trajectories than other students. Preliminary results will be available after the fall 2015 semester.

Atadero, R. A., & Paguyo, C., & Rambo-Hernandez, K. E., & Henderson, H. L. (2016, June), Promoting Inclusive Engineering Identities in First-Year Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25994

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