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The benefits of ethnographic research in exploring new intervention in STEM higher education programs

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Qualitative Research Methods

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Diana Jaleh Arya University of California, Santa Barbara

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Diana Arya is an assistant professor in the Department of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Arya’s research interests focus on science and engineering literacy practices within K-12 science classroom and professional communities.

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Noreen Balos University of California, Santa Barbara

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Noreen Balos is a doctoral student in the Learning, Culture & Technology program at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Prior to UCSB, she served as Student Affairs Officer for UCLA’s Biomedical Research minor program advising undergraduate researchers in their pursuit of MD or MD-PhD. At ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, & Energy (SEMTE), she was a Project Manager, overseeing with CO-PIs, an NSF Innovation through Institutional Integration (I^3) grant collaborating with academic departments such as mathematics, physics, engineering, and education. One of the foci of this grant was to train K-8 certified teachers in modeling pedagogy and to support them in receiving a Master’s in STEM education.
Her specific work with student STEM programs includes: connecting and funding K-12 students in university summer programs, coordinating STEM professional development programs for teachers, and leading departmental involvement in campus-based, state-wide Science and Technology festival for students, families, and the community. Prior to her work in higher education, Noreen was an Instructor Meteorologist & Wing Weather Officer for the USAF, specifically training personnel in synoptic forecasting and providing operational weather data for different missions at home station and while on deployments to Europe and the Middle East. With her background in science and professional experience in higher education, her research interests include: STEM Education, Culture in STEM, and Access & Equity in STEM.

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Maria Teresa Napoli University of California, Santa Barbara

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Dr. Maria Teresa Napoli received a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, in 2004. In 1999, she also earned a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Padova in Italy. Currently, she holds positions as VP of MEMS Development at Laxmi Therapeutic Devices, and as Community College Programs Manager at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Prior to this appointment, she worked for several years as a microsensors system expert at SensorDynamics AG. Her research interests include nanofluidic technologies for medical applications, modeling and control of large arrays of MEMS, and educational strategies and programs to increase STEM diversity.

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Elizabeth Sciaky University of California, Santa Barbara

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Program Evaluator at the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships at UC Santa Barbara.

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This study describes an initial cycle of inquiry within a multi-year research initiative for a new Naval Workforce Program (NWP) designed to increase the number of underrepresented individuals (veterans and minorities) in STEM professional contexts, particularly within the context of naval engineering and design.

The research practices within the NWP follow a logic of inquiry that is grounded in Interactional Ethnography (IE) and is based on interactions and collaborative work among all participating stakeholders, including program coordinators, naval-base professionals, university researchers, and all student participants. These lines of inquiry are shaped by observed stakeholder experiences, perspectives, and attitudes that are systematically documented via recorded exchanges, discussions, individual and collaborative work products, and field notes. We argue that such ethnographic research is culturally responsive to the underrepresented students, with particular interest in increasing the potential for meeting the goals of increasing the number of veteran individuals in STEM professional contexts. Our telling case focuses on a discovery that emerged from discussion with a group of participants who are veterans; several members comment on how perceptions about public views of veterans can be a hindrance in pursuing civil (non-military, non-combat) careers in STEM. Our exploration of this interaction doubly serves as an illustration of the inquiry process and insight derived from IE in action.

Arya, D. J., & Balos, N., & Napoli, M. T., & Sciaky, E. (2017, June), The benefits of ethnographic research in exploring new intervention in STEM higher education programs Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28945

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