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Using Social Network Analysis to Study the Social Structures of Inclusion

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Social Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/31211

Download Count

152

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Paper Authors

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Nelson S. Pearson University of Nevada, Reno

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Nelson Pearson is an Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada, Reno. His research interest includes, social networks and the integration of diverse populations, engineering culture as well as engineering pedagogy. His education includes a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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Justin Charles Major Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/https://0000-0002-3111-8509

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Justin C. Major is a first-year Engineering Education Ph.D student and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at Purdue University. Justin has two bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Secondary Mathematics Education from the University of Nevada, Reno, and during his undergraduate education, he focused on K-12 Engineering Education. Justin's research and service focuses on the experiences and development of low-socioeconomic students as an often understudied population. Justin has served as the ASEE Student Division Co-Program Chair and is a current Director of Special Projects for the Educational Research & Methods Division.

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Allison Godwin Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-0741-3356

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Allison Godwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses what factors influence diverse students to choose engineering and stay in engineering through their careers and how different experiences within the practice and culture of engineering foster or hinder belongingness and identity development. Dr. Godwin graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education. Her research earned her a National Science Foundation CAREER Award focused on characterizing latent diversity, which includes diverse attitudes, mindsets, and approaches to learning, to understand engineering students’ identity development. She is the recipient of a 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. She has also been recognized for the synergy of research and teaching as an invited participant of the 2016 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium and 2016 New Faculty Fellow for the Frontiers in Engineering Education Annual Conference. She also was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow for her work on female empowerment in engineering which won the National Association for Research in Science Teaching 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno

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Adam Kirn is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and their learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Abstract

Using Social Network Analysis to Study the Social Structures of Inclusion

The purpose of this research paper is to understand how diverse students are incorporated into the social structure of a large enrollment first-year engineering design course. Despite previous work demonstrating the benefits of diverse individuals in engineering, little work has examined how diverse students are incorporated into the social networks that exist within engineering classrooms. Social interactions are one of the most influential sources for integration into communities of practice. Through understanding how students interact and the structure of these interactions, we can elucidate how the engineering community includes members of underrepresented populations. Previous social network analysis (SNA) studies have scrutinized student classroom interactions. These studies typically attempt to link classroom interactions to academic outcomes (i.e., grades). In this study, we start to shift the focus away from connecting student interactions to academic outcomes and examine how the structure of student interactions can encourage an inclusive environment in a formal engineering environment. SNA data was collected via an online survey (n = 502, 74% response rate) one month into the semester at a Western land-grant institution. The survey asked first-year engineering students to indicate with whom they had interacted using a pre-populated list of the class roster and open-ended questions. The number of students that were mentioned by a participant (out-degree) is interpreted as a proxy of their sociableness. Whereas, the number of times a student was mentioned by others (in-degree) is interpreted as popularity. We posit that in an inclusive network structure the social behaviors (i.e., in and out-degree) will be independent of students’ demographic characteristics (e.g., race and gender). Nonparametric hypothesis testing (i.e., Kruskal-Wallis and Dunn’s test) was used to investigate the effects of gender and race on both in and out-degree. Results indicate that the social structure of the first-year engineering community is inclusive of both gender and race. Specifically, results indicated no significant differences for in-degree based on measures of race and gender, for students who provided race and gender information. Out-degree was not significantly different based on race. However, women did demonstrate significantly higher out-degree scores (i.e., greater sociableness) than their peers. Building on previous SNA literature, the increased connections expressed by women may lead to increased learning gains or performance within engineering.

Results indicated that the social structure of this first-year engineering course, as indicated by in-degree and out-degree, is not significantly different for underrepresented groups. This result begins to illustrate a more complex story than the existing literature has documented of engineering as an unwelcoming environment for underrepresented students. Future work will explore how these structures do or do not persist over time and how individuals develop attitudes towards diverse individuals as a result of these interactions. We hope that the results of this work will provide practical ways to improve engineering climate for underrepresented students.

Pearson, N. S., & Major, J. C., & Godwin, A., & Kirn, A. (2018, June), Using Social Network Analysis to Study the Social Structures of Inclusion Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/31211

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