July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Pre-College Engineering Education
University-led engineering outreach programs reach approximately 600,000 K-12 students each year. Often, these programs are facilitated by undergraduate engineering outreach educators (EOEs), who increasingly are positioned as role models for students. To take up EOEs as role models, students first must notice characteristics of EOEs and then relate this information to themselves and their own interests and motivations. However, little is known about what students actually notice about EOEs during outreach. Drawing from student interviews, this paper addresses the research question: What do elementary students perceive about their interactions with engineering outreach educators? As part of an engineering education outreach program, students engaged in 12-16 weeks of hands-on activities led by undergraduate EOEs. Sixty-eight fifth-grade students participated in 15- to 30-minute semi-structured interviews. Participants represented seven classrooms in four suburban schools in the northeastern United States. During the interviews, students described their experiences with EOEs during the outreach program. Utilizing open coding and thematic analysis, we found that students noticed the design/content of activities, relational components, and instructional moves present during interactions with outreach educators. In other words, they noted what is provided, who provides it, and how it is provided. Of greater interest, however, was that students noticed how the relational components and instructional moves together worked in service to the purpose of outreach (the “why”). While it is important to provide students with opportunities to engage with the technical content of engineering, relationship building in these spaces may be equally important. Our work suggests that EOEs might provide affective or emotional support to students, supporting them to feel capable and successful during outreach. This work may inform how we think about and conceptualize the role of outreach educators, in that EOEs may serve as a “greeter”, welcoming students into and helping them feel like they belong in engineering. This paper will discuss implications for engineering outreach and how to support EOEs as they balance delivery of content and building relationships that foster student agency and success in engineering.
Paul, K., & Miel, K., & Portsmore, M. D., & Maltese, A. V., & Kim, J. (2021, July), Students’ Perceptions of Engineering Educators: Building Relationships and Fostering Agency in Outreach (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37772
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