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The Influence of Connecting Funds of Knowledge to Beliefs about Performance, Classroom Belonging, and Graduation Certainty for First-generation College Students

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Division (ERM) Best Paper Finalists

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Educational Research and Methods

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Dina Verdín Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dina Verdín, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Engineering in the Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. She graduated from San José State University with a BS in Industrial Systems Engineering and from Purdue University with an MS in Industrial Engineering and PhD in Engineering Education. Dina is a 2016 recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and an Honorable Mention for the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program. Her research interest focuses on changing the deficit base perspective of first-generation college students by providing asset-based approaches to understanding this population. Dina is interested in understanding how first-generation college students author their identities as engineers and negotiate their multiple identities in the current culture of engineering. Dina has won several awards including the 2018 ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Best Diversity Paper Award, 2019 College of Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award and the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Distinguished Scholar Award. Dina's dissertation proposal was selected as part of the top 3 in the 2018 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division D In-Progress Research Gala.

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Jessica Mary Smith Colorado School of Mines

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Jessica M. Smith is Associate Professor in the Engineering, Design & Society Division at the Colorado School of Mines and Co-Director of Humanitarian Engineering. She is an anthropologist with two major research areas: 1) the sociocultural dynamics of extractive and energy industries, with a focus on corporate social responsibility, social justice, labor, and gender and 2) engineering education, with a focus on socioeconomic class and social responsibility. She is currently completing a book manuscript on the intersection of engineering and corporate social responsibility. She is the author of Mining Coal and Undermining Gender: Rhythms of Work and Family in the American West (Rutgers University Press, 2014), which was funded by the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2016 the National Academy of Engineering recognized her Corporate Social Responsibility course as a national exemplar in teaching engineering ethics. Professor Smith holds a PhD in Anthropology and a certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan and bachelor’s degrees in International Studies, Anthropology and Latin American Studies from Macalester College.

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Juan C. Lucena Colorado School of Mines

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Juan Lucena is Professor and Director of Humanitarian Engineering Undergraduate Programs and Outreach at the Engineering, Design & Society Division of the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). Juan obtained a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech and a MS in STS and BS in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). His books include Defending the Nation: U.S. Policymaking to Create Scientists and Engineers from Sputnik to the ‘War Against Terrorism’ (University Press of America, 2005), Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (Morgan &Claypool, 2010), Engineering Education for Social Justice: Critical Explorations and Opportunities (Springer, 2013), and Engineering Justice (with Jon Leydens, Wiley, 2018)

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The purpose of this research paper was to understand how first-generation college students’ accumulated bodies of knowledge (i.e., funds of knowledge) support their beliefs about performing well in engineering coursework, feeling a sense of belonging in the classroom, and certainty of graduating. First-generation college students in engineering accumulate bodies of knowledge through their working-class families. In our prior ethnographic data of first-generation college students, we identified tinkering knowledge from home and from work, perspective taking, mediational ability, and connecting experiences as knowledge sources brought to engineering. Data for this study came from a survey administered in the Fall of 2018 from ten universities across the US. In this study, only the sample of students who indicated their parents had less than a bachelor’s degree (n = 378) were used. A structural equation modeling technique was employed to examine several interconnected research questions pertaining to funds of knowledge, performance/competence beliefs, classroom belongingness, and certainty of graduating with an engineering degree. Our analysis demonstrates that the accumulated bodies of knowledge obtained through tinkering at home, tinkering at work, and the skill of being a mediator served to scaffold concepts that students were currently learning in engineering. There was a negative direct relationship between students’ ability to make connections between their home activities to scaffold what they are currently learning and their certainty of graduating with an engineering degree. However, first-generation college students’ perceptions of performing well in their engineering coursework and their sense of belonging in the classroom positively supported their certainty of graduating thus emphasizing the importance of connecting students’ funds of knowledge to engineering coursework and classroom instruction. Implications for possible approaches towards connecting first-generation college students’ funds of knowledge to engineering coursework and classroom culture are discussed.

Verdín, D., & Smith, J. M., & Lucena, J. C. (2020, June), The Influence of Connecting Funds of Knowledge to Beliefs about Performance, Classroom Belonging, and Graduation Certainty for First-generation College Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35343

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