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Social Dialogue in the Engineering Classroom: The Effect of National Events on the Political and Social Attitudes of First-Year Engineering Students

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Social Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

16

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30970

Download Count

12

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Paper Authors

biography

Tara C. Langus University of Nevada, Reno

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Tara C. Langus is a doctoral student pursuing her degree in STEM Education at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). She received her BS/MS in Biology from UNR where she studied insect immunology and chemical ecology. She has five years of teaching experience and serves as the instructor for the Women in Science & Engineering Program (WiSE), an academic based resource and professional development program for first-year undergraduate females in STEM. Her research interests include pre-service science teacher education, curriculum development, STEM identity, and K-12 outdoor science education. She is currently working on research projects focused on diversity in engineering and the retention of women in STEM.

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Hector Enrique Rodriguez-Simmonds Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Raised in South Florida, born in Mexico. Half Colombian and half Mexican; proud Mexilombian. Héctor acquired an MS in Computer Engineering and is currently pursuing a PhD in Engineering Education, both from Purdue University. His research interests are in investigating the experiences of LGBTQ+ students in engineering, tapping into critical methodologies and methods for conducting and analyzing research, and exploring embodied cognition.

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Nelson S. Pearson University of Nevada, Reno

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Nelson Pearson is an Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada, Reno. His research interest includes, social networks and the integration of diverse populations, engineering culture as well as engineering pedagogy. His education includes a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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Justin Charles Major Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Justin C. Major is a first-year Engineering Education Ph.D student and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at Purdue University. Justin has two bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Secondary Mathematics Education from the University of Nevada, Reno, and during his undergraduate education, he focused on K-12 Engineering Education. Justin's research and service focuses on the experiences and development of low-socioeconomic students as an often understudied population. Justin has served as the ASEE Student Division Co-Program Chair and is a current Director of Special Projects for the Educational Research & Methods Division.

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Allison Godwin Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-0741-3356

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Allison Godwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses what factors influence diverse students to choose engineering and stay in engineering through their careers and how different experiences within the practice and culture of engineering foster or hinder belongingness and identity development. Dr. Godwin graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education. Her research earned her a National Science Foundation CAREER Award focused on characterizing latent diversity, which includes diverse attitudes, mindsets, and approaches to learning, to understand engineering students’ identity development. She is the recipient of a 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. She has also been recognized for the synergy of research and teaching as an invited participant of the 2016 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium and 2016 New Faculty Fellow for the Frontiers in Engineering Education Annual Conference. She also was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow for her work on female empowerment in engineering which won the National Association for Research in Science Teaching 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno

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Adam Kirn is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and their learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Abstract

This research paper focuses on the effect of recent national events on first-year engineering students’ attitudes about their political identity, social welfare, perspectives of diversity, and approaches to social situations.

Engineering classrooms and cultures often focus on mastery of content and technical expertise with little prioritization given to integrating social issues into engineering. This depoliticization (i.e., the removal of social issues) in engineering removes the importance of issues related to including diverse individuals in engineering, working in diverse teams, and developing cultural sensitivity.

This study resulted from the shift in the national discourse, during the 2016 presidential election, around diversity and identities in and out of the academy. We were collecting interview data as a part of a larger study on students attitudes about diversity in teams. Because these national events could affect students’ perceptions of our research topic, we changed a portion of our interviews to discuss national events in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classrooms and how students viewed these events in relation to engineering.

We interviewed first-year undergraduate students (n = 12) who indicated large differences of attitudes towards diverse individuals, experiences with diverse team members, and/or residing at the intersection of multiple diversity markers. We asked participants during the Spring of 2017 to reflect on the personal impact of recent national events and how political discussions have or have not been integrated into their STEM classrooms. During interviews students were asked: 1) Have recent national events impacted you in any way? 2) Have national events been discussed in your STEM classes? 3) If so, what was discussed and how was it discussed? 4) Do these conversations have a place in STEM classes? 5) Are there events you wish were discussed that have not been?

Inductive coding was used to analyze interviews and develop themes that were audited for quality by the author team. Two preliminary themes emerged from analysis: political awareness and future-self impact. Students expressed awareness of current political events at the local, national and global levels. They recognized personal and social impacts that these events imposed on close friends, family members, and society. However, students were unsure of how to interpret political dialogue as it relates to policy in engineering disciplines and practices. This uncertainty led students to question their future-selves or careers in engineering. As participants continued to discuss their uncertainty, they expressed a desire to make explicit connections between politics and STEM and their eventual careers in STEM.

These findings suggest that depoliticization in the classroom results in engineering students having limited consciousness of how political issues are relevant to their field. This disconnect of political discourse in the classroom gives us a better understanding of how engineering students make sense of current national events in the face of depoliticization. By re-politicising STEM classrooms in a way relevant to students’ futures, educators can better utilize important dialogues to help students understand how their role as engineers influence society and how the experiences of society can influence their practice of engineering.

Langus, T. C., & Rodriguez-Simmonds, H. E., & Pearson, N. S., & Major, J. C., & Godwin, A., & Kirn, A. (2018, June), Social Dialogue in the Engineering Classroom: The Effect of National Events on the Political and Social Attitudes of First-Year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30970

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