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What Strategies do Diverse Women in Engineering Use to Cope with Situational Hidden Curriculum?

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

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Paper Authors


Victoria Beth Sellers University of Florida

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Dr. Victoria Sellers is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Engineering Education at the University of Florida. Her current research is focused on determining how engineering students respond to hidden curriculum. Victoria has previously served as an editorial assistant to the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, as well as the communications intern for the Journal of Engineering Education. Victoria received a PhD in engineering and science education from Clemson University.

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Idalis Villanueva University of Florida Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Idalis Villanueva is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at the University of Florida. Her work spans multi- and mixed-methods research and tools to explore the complex and intertwined cognitive, motivational, and affective mechanisms affecting underrepresented groups in science and engineering. In 2017, she received a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award to explore the topic of hidden curriculum (intended or unintended messaging in learning and working environments) in engineering. In 2019, she received the Presidential Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the White House of Science Policy. She enjoys spending time with her two daughters, spouse, and dog.

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Hidden curriculum (HC) refers to the unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended assumptions, lessons, values, beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives that are not openly acknowledged in a given environment. Previous research has identified four factors that regulate an individual’s response to HC: awareness, emotions, self-efficacy, and self-advocacy. Self-efficacy traditionally positions the individual as the originator of change. We acknowledge that self-efficacy is socially constructed, which involves having access to the ideological, institutional, and social resources that provide the foundation needed for an individual to take an action. As part of a larger study, inductive analysis was performed with the open-ended responses of women (n=333) in engineering who become aware of an HC and conceptualized and communicated strategies for their self-preservation and adaptation in the field. We also performed descriptive and in-vivo coding on the HC that women faced in engineering and the self-efficacy strategies they took. We grouped 65 self-efficacy strategies into 11 categories. By categorizing the participants’ strategies, we saw a distinction in how women approached the HC they encountered. Women in engineering either felt efficacious by taking inward measures like developing mental resistance and self-assurance, or displaying outward measures, such as proving others wrong or speaking directly to a peer about an issue. We specifically want to highlight the categories of outward strategies for this work, which include: 1) developing skills, 2) increasing effort, 3) mediating, 4) seeking help or resources, 5) addressing issues directly, or 6) looking for/increasing representation for women in engineering. This finding highlights the unique strategies that women in engineering use to navigate the chilly and unwelcoming environment of their engineering education. In the future, we will explore HC sources, from the macro level (systemic) to micro level (individual perceptions), and their connections to the participants’ ability and willingness to advocate for themselves in engineering.

Sellers, V. B., & Villanueva, I. (2021, July), What Strategies do Diverse Women in Engineering Use to Cope with Situational Hidden Curriculum? Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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