Asee peer logo

Synthesis of Engineering Undergraduate Students’ Out-of-Class Involvement

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Beyond the Classroom

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1450.1 - 26.1450.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Rongrong Yu Virginia Tech

visit author page

Rongrong Yu is a PhD student at the Educational Research and Evaluation Program in School of Education at Virginia Tech. She holds a B.S. degree in psychology and a M.Ed. degree in educational psychology. Her research interests include K-12 student mathematics and science achievement, STEM and gender, and co-curricular involvement.

visit author page


Denise Rutledge Simmons PE Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Denise R. Simmons, PE, is an assistant professor in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and in Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, and an affiliate faculty of the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in civil engineering and a graduate certificate in engineering education – all from Clemson University. Until 2012, she was the director of the Savannah River Environmental Sciences Field Station. Dr. Simmons has nearly fourteen years of engineering and project management experience working with public utility companies, a project management consulting company, and a software company. She is a registered professional engineer, project management professional and LEED accredited professional. Her research interests are in investigating students’ development of leadership skills and other professional competencies and in students' involvement in curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Dr. Simmons is a NSF CAREER award recipient for her research entitled, “Investigating Co-Curricular Participation of Students Underrepresented in Engineering.”

visit author page

Download Paper |


Synthesis of Undergraduate Engineering Students’ Curricular, Co- curricular and Extra-curricular InvolvementBackgroundThe learning that occurs outside of the formal classroom environment plays importantroles in students’ cognitive and affective development and professional preparation.However, it is not clear how undergraduate students decide to participate in suchactivities and how involvement impacts their learning outcomes, persistence, and careerdevelopment.PurposeIn order to understand the current literature and develop an instrument to measureoutcomes from curricular-related (associated with a class), co-curricular (associated withschool, but not with a class) and extra-curricular (not associated with school)involvement, we conducted an integrative synthesis of the literature published on thistopic. Two research questions guided the analysis: what factors influence students’decisions to participate or not to participate in co-curricular and extra-curricularactivities? What are the positive and negative outcomes stemming from curricular-related, co-curricular and extra-curricular involvement?MethodsA mixed methods research synthesis approach was used to integrate research findingsrelated to curricular-related, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities reported in theliterature. Mixed methods research synthesis refers to an approach that systematicallyintegrates the findings of empirical qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studieson a specific topic by using a combination of qualitative and quantitative analyticalstrategies. In the data collection phase, we identified a sample of 51 articles on the topic.Data analyses were conducted in two steps. In the first qualitative phase of the study, wegenerated descriptive codes through a process of open coding and then organized theinitial codes into groups and developed categories with a higher level of abstraction. Inthe quantitative phase, the categories developed through the open coding process werecompared to those produced through cluster analysis generated by NVIVO10. Thestrategies of establishing inter-rater reliability during the coding process, inviting amethodological expert to supervise the research process, and critically discussing resultswith the research team were utilized to enhance the validity of this study.ResultsTwelve factors emerged as affecting students’ decisions to be involved in co-curricularand extra-curricular activities: prepare for future career, gain field-specific knowledgeand/or skills, interact with peers and faculty, fulfill personal interests and benefits, seekactivities beyond courses, change perception of race/ethnicity, break down a race/ethnicbarrier, role-modeling, acculturation of institution, encouragement from advisor andfaculty, and information about the activity. Four barriers preventing students’participation were: schedule issue, gender issue, lack of the information, and culture ofindividualism.Eleven categories emerged as outcomes of involvement: intellectual development,personal and social development, civic engagement, cross-culture awareness,communication skills, leadership skills, career development, satisfaction with collegeexperience, academic and social engagement, persistence in the major, and schoolbelongingness.ConclusionThis study made a significant contribution to the literature on curricular-related, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities by demonstrating a systematic procedure tosynthesize the results of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods articles. Resultsprovide a comprehensive list of reasons and outcomes that relate to students’participation decisions and involvement in these activities that can now be extended touse in survey design.  

Yu, R., & Simmons, D. R. (2015, June), Synthesis of Engineering Undergraduate Students’ Out-of-Class Involvement Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24787

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015