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Understanding "Failure" is an Option

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

STEM Education Tied to Aerospace Engineering

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Paper Authors


Hansel Burley Texas Tech University

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Dr. Burley is a professor of educational psychology. His research focus includes college access, diversity, and resilience in youth. Recently he has served as the evaluator for multiple STEM projects.

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Casey Michael Williams Texas Tech University

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I am currently a second year PhD student in educational psychology. I spent 2 years teaching environmental science, chemistry and biology to high school students in Kansas City through Teach For America. My interests lie with designing educational initiatives that highlight the importance of STEM education for the future of learning and motivation.

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Terrance Denard Youngblood Texas Tech University

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Terrance D. Youngblood is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology at Texas Tech University, specializing in the effective evaluation and assessment of educational outreach programs and workforce development.

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Ibrahim H. Yeter Texas Tech University Orcid 16x16

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IIbrahim H. Yeter is currently a PhD candidate in the Curriculum and Instruction program at the College of Education, and at the same time, he is pursuing his Master's degree in Petroleum Engineering at Texas Tech University. He is highly interested in conducting research within the Engineering Education framework. Mr. Yeter plans to graduate in December 2016 with both degrees and is looking forward to securing a teaching position within a research university and continuing his in-depth research on Engineering Education.

He is one of two scholarships awarded by NARST (National Association for Research in Science Teaching) to attend the ESERA (European Science Education Research Association) summer research conference in České Budějovice, Czech Republic in August 2016. In addition, he has been named as one of 14 Jhumki Basu Scholars by the NARST’s Equity and Ethics Committee in 2014. He is the first and only individual from his native country and Texas Tech University to have received this prestigious award. Furthermore, he was a recipient of the Texas Tech University President’s Excellence in Diversity & Equity award in 2014 and was the only graduate student to have received the award, which was granted based on outstanding activities and projects that contribute to a better understanding of equity and diversity issues within Engineering Education.

Additional projects involvement include: Engineering is Elementary (EiE) Project; Computational Thinking/Pedagogy Project; Rocket Project of SystemsGo; World MOON Project; East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood (ELPN) Project; and Robotics. Since 2013 he has served as the president of the Nu Sigma chapter of Kappa Delta Pi: International Honor Society in Education and was the founding president of ASEE Student Chapter at Texas Tech University. He can be reached at

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As is made abundantly clear in the United States, we face great challenges in aspiring to lead the world in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Some of these challenges come with great risks for the quality of life, health, prosperity, welfare and security of the nation. Coming at a time in history where the threat of our own success may lead to the demise of our species, thinking about ways to impart scientific literacy to the general public is absolutely essential. It has been shown that certain problem-based learning activities can foster academic resilience when the project has broad, complex goals to achieve.

The proposed paper references the qualitative coding of open-ended questions from a survey of participants in a rocket program in the southern United States. The program is for high school students and is composed of 15 different modules. Each module teaches and promotes a student’s understanding of innovation, research and development industry, leadership (knowing when and how to lead), teamwork, design, testing, and analysis of findings. This program suggests that certain project-based learning activities may increase intrinsic motivation and academic resilience as it relates to STEM fields (especially engineering). Further analyses will be performed and inter-rater reliability checks will be implemented to validate findings.

Findings shed new light on the potential of informal science learning, including students' reporting that they are more cognitively resilient as a result of inquiry and problem-based learning strategies. Setting broad and sustainable goals, planning for the worst and learning from failure, and working together to find solutions to complex problems all can be effective ways to sustain academic resilience in the classroom or outside. The researchers found multiple themes emerging from participants' responses that support inquiry and project-based learning. Namely, 12.9% of responses showed a student’s willingness to overcome failure and persist through difficult situations, 16.67% showed a willingness to learn new material, 20.70% of responses discussed the importance of teamwork when solving problems, 38.21% of the students were able to conceptualize the entire process from start to finish, 6.67% of responses discussed their enjoyment of hands-on or active learning and 4.89% of students discussed the importance of goal setting for the project. The researchers also found that 4 themes emerged from utterances made about what topics were learned. These topics were grouped into Newtonian Mechanics, electrical engineering, external forces on the rocket and other interdisciplinary subjects. If students are able to foster or create motivational and interest related constructs with the aid of inquiry and problem-based activities, then teachers and practitioners would be advised to create similar conditions to verify these exciting results.

Burley, H., & Williams, C. M., & Youngblood, T. D., & Yeter, I. H. (2016, June), Understanding "Failure" is an Option Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27095

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