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Undergraduate Students Benefits from Involvement in K-12 Outreach

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors


Angela R Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where students learned about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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Greg Rulifson PE USAID Orcid 16x16

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Greg is currently an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow. Greg earned his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice from UC Berkeley where he acquired a passion for using engineering to facilitate developing communities’ capacity for success. He earned his master's degree in Structural Engineering and Risk Analysis from Stanford University. His PhD work at CU Boulder focused on how student's connections of social responsibility and engineering change throughout college as well as how engineering service is valued in employment and supported in the workplace. He taught in the Humanitarian Engineering program at the Colorado School of Mines from 2015 to 2018.

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This research explored the types of benefits that undergraduate students derive from engaging in outreach activities with K-12 students. The research was conducted post hoc, using transcripts from longitudinal interviews with 34 undergraduate students attending 5 different institutions. The transcripts were analyzed using emergent thematic coding, as well as looking specifically for evidence related to the four criteria for effective learning from Dewey (generate interest, worthwhile intrinsically, awaken need to learn, and extended time span). When asked what they were doing outside of class and school work, fifteen students shared their experiences participating in activities with K-12 students. For example, one female student participated in significant outreach activities for three years through various co-curricular and extracurricular groups such as the Society of Women Engineers and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. Two other women were paid to facilitate engineering activities in K-12 classrooms during all four years of their undergraduate experience, thus meeting Dewey’s time span criteria. Themes that emerged from students’ descriptions of their K-12 outreach experiences included how fun it was, a good break from the stress of classes and studying; this aligns with Dewey’s criteria of generating interest. This balance and reconnecting with the fun of engineering might help students persist in their engineering studies. The teaching aspects of these programs may solidify engineering concepts for the undergraduates. A number of the students also discussed the idea of giving back and serving as a role model for kids, aligning with Dewey’s criteria of being worthwhile intrinsically. A few students discussed issues related to social justice, implying the K-12 experience influenced their social responsibility attitudes. Other attitude impacts and a sense of community were also described. The specific outcomes for college students likely vary with different types of K-12 engagement. Based on this work, we believe Dewey’s model would be useful for faculty and staff designing K-12 outreach programs who wish to optimize the beneficial learning outcomes for college students.

Bielefeldt, A. R., & Rulifson, G. (2020, June), Undergraduate Students Benefits from Involvement in K-12 Outreach Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35415

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