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Understanding How Social Agents and Communicative Messages Influence Female Students’ Engineering Career Interest From High School to First Semester of College (Fundamental)

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Medley of Undergraduate Programming and Pedagogies

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

19

Permanent URL

https://strategy.asee.org/37959

Download Count

57

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Paper Authors

biography

Yue Liu Arizona State University

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Yue Liu is a Ph.D. student in the Engineering Education Systems and Design program within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

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biography

Dina Verdín Arizona State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-6048-1104

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Dina Verdín, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Engineering in 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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biography

Gerhard Sonnert Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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Gerhard Sonnert is a Research Associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and an Associate of the Harvard Physics Department. He received master's and doctorate degrees in sociology from the University of Erlangen, Germany, and a Master's in Public Administration from Harvard University. One of his major research interests has been the impact of gender on
science careers. This research has resulted in two books (both authored with the assistance of Gerald Holton): Who Succeeds in Science? The Gender Dimension and Gender Differences in Science Careers: The Project Access Study.

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Abstract

Many researchers have investigated how to increase female and minority students’ engineering career interests, but they are still severely underrepresented in the field of engineering. Prior literature demonstrated that various factors contribute to students’ engineering career interests, such as self-efficacy and social support. Previous research also explained that students’ early engineering interest was the most influential predictor of their college majors and career choices in engineering. Therefore, it is necessary to examine students’ engineering career interest trajectories prior to college to better understand how students develop or hinder their interest in an engineering career. This study answers the following research question: “Which social agents and what communicative messages influence female students’ intentions to choose engineering as a career at the beginning of high school, end of high school, and the first semester of college?”

We used a cross-sectional dataset collected from students enrolled in first-semester English courses at 23 four-year institutions and 4 two-year institutions across the United States. The survey was a retrospective examination of students’ (both engineering majors and nonengineering majors) career interests, attitudes, and beliefs about engineering and broadly STEM. Students indicated career interests at different stages in their lives (e.g., during middle school, beginning of high school, end of high school, and beginning of college). Logistic regression was used to understand the social support factors promoting engineering career interests during the four retrospective time points. Our findings demonstrated that at the beginning of high school, Latinas were more likely to choose engineering as a career. However, by the end of high school, Asian girls had higher odds of choosing engineering as a career, whereas multiracial girls had a decreased likelihood. These changes revealed the impact of race/ethnicity on girls’ engineering career interests at different time points during high school. Our findings also indicated that different social agents, such as fathers, high school teachers, and siblings, had various impacts on girls’ engineering career interests at different stages of high school. At the beginning of high school, female students who chose engineering as a career were more likely to be encouraged by their fathers and teachers, however, in the end, female students were more likely to be encouraged by their fathers and siblings.

This study helps disentangle the influence social agents have on female high schoolers’ interest in engineering careers. Furthermore, a deeper understanding of how factors influence the chances of female students’ engineering career interest during high school and first semester of college will help the engineering education research community develop more effective strategies in improving female and minority student participation.

Liu, Y., & Verdín, D., & Sonnert, G. (2021, July), Understanding How Social Agents and Communicative Messages Influence Female Students’ Engineering Career Interest From High School to First Semester of College (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://strategy.asee.org/37959

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