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Supporting Students’ Plans for STEM Careers: How Prepared are High School Educators in Appalachia to Help?

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1443.1 - 26.1443.14



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Paper Authors


Cheryl Carrico Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Cheryl Carrico is a Postdoctoral Research faculty member for Virginia Tech. Her current research focus relates to STEM career pathways (K-12 through early career) and conceptual understanding of core engineering principles. Prior to her current role, Dr. Carrico spent over 25 years in the aerospace industry conducting and leading R&D, design engineering, and project management for composite aircraft components. Dr. Carrico received her B.S. in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech, Masters of Engineering from North Carolina State University, MBA from King University, and PhD in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Dr. Carrico is a certified project management professional (PMP) and licensed professional engineer (P.E.).

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Matthew Arnold Boynton PE P.E. Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education

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Matthew Boynton recently finished his Ph.D in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He also holds a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from Tennessee Tech and an Ed.S in Instructional Leadership. Matthew has experience in industry as well as teaching. Previously, Matthew taught Project Lead the Way Engineering courses in two rural high schools in Appalachia. While at Virginia Tech, his research focused on understanding engineering career choice in the Appalachian region of the United States. Matthew is currently employed as an engineer at Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative, a rural telecommunications service provider in Pikeville Tennessee.

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Holly M Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Dr. Matusovich is an Assistant Professor and Assistant Department Head for Graduate Programs in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. She has her doctorate in Engineering Education and her strengths include qualitative and mixed methods research study design and implementation. She is/was PI/Co-PI on 8 funded research projects including a CAREER grant. She has won several Virginia Tech awards including a Dean’s Award for Outstanding New Faculty. Her research expertise includes using motivation and related frameworks to study student engagement in learning, recruitment and retention in engineering programs and careers, faculty teaching practices and intersections of motivation and learning strategies. Matusovich has authored a book chapter, 10 journal manuscripts and more than 50 conference papers.

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Marie C Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, design education, and gender in engineering. She was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study expert teaching in capstone design courses, and is co-PI on numerous NSF grants exploring communication, design, and identity in engineering. Drawing on theories of situated learning and identity development, her work includes studies on the teaching and learning of communication, effective teaching practices in design education, the effects of differing design pedagogies on retention and motivation, the dynamics of cross-disciplinary collaboration in both academic and industry design environments, and gender and identity in engineering.

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Supporting Students’ Plans for STEM Careers: How Prepared are High School Educators in Appalachia to Help? Studies on high school student preparedness for college often consider student grade pointaverages and standardized test results as markers for predicting student success in college. Such studiesinform researchers, educators, and the policies of regional education boards, such as the SouthernRegional Education Board. Limiting the research to the curriculum and test requirements may not fullycapture how prepared students are to attend college; students must understand how to choose andapply to a college. Not having this knowledge may contribute to the gap between students planning onattending college and those that actually do attend college. Knowledge of processes may be particularlyimportant for first generation college students wishing to enter science, technology, engineering, andmath (STEM) careers. Such careers often require specific degrees not offered by all colleges and firstgeneration college students may not have help from parents in understanding such requirements. Infact, research on Appalachian student’s career choice goals has revealed gaps in student’s knowledge ofthe actions necessary to achieve their career choice. Therefore, research on educator’s ability andconfidence to assist students, in particular for STEM careers, is needed. The current analysis was part of a larger NSF Funded project investigating barriers toengineering as a career choice among Appalachian High School students. Qualitative data from highschool student interviews and a stakeholder meeting with county administrators revealed three areas inneed of additional research. First, gaps between student perspectives related to career choices andeducators perceptions of student’s awareness; second, educators’ knowledge and confidence to discussSTEM careers with students; and third, awareness of what STEM interventions, if any, existed in theschools and in the community. To examine the pervasiveness of these three gaps, we developed anddeployed a survey in the Central Appalachian counties in Virginia. We designed the survey to captureeducator’s self-reported knowledge of STEM careers, their confidence in coaching students relative toSTEM careers, and their awareness of STEM resources and activities (both at their school and in thecommunity). The survey population of interest was high school teachers, guidance counselors, careercoaches, and county administrators. Close-ended questions were the primary sources of information,however a set of open-ended questions were included to capture additional comments and concerns ofthe three primary data areas. The survey was expert reviewed by members of the larger researchproject team and engineering educators with survey development experience to improve face validity.In addition, the survey was rolled out to a limited number of school educators to receive initial feedbackon the survey. The survey was then distributed to county administrators who had access to listservs foreach high school in the targeted region. In addition to sharing the results through a paper/poster atASEE, we intended to disseminate the results to each of the schools participating in the project.

Carrico, C., & Boynton, M. A., & Matusovich, H. M., & Paretti, M. C. (2015, June), Supporting Students’ Plans for STEM Careers: How Prepared are High School Educators in Appalachia to Help? Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24780

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