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Why Women Persist: Evaluating the Impact of Classroom-based Interventions

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2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Undergraduate Track - Technical Session VII

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Undergraduate Education

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Paper Authors


Kasi Kiehlbaugh University of Arizona

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Dr. Kasi Kiehlbaugh is primarily interested in incorporating research-based pedagogical techniques into the undergraduate engineering classroom, and she focuses on employing active learning techniques and utilizing collaborative learning space classrooms. More specifically, her work examines how co-teaching, evolving classroom technologies, active learning in the classroom, and various classroom-based effective interventions targeted at fostering self-efficacy, belongingness, metacognitive learning strategies, and growth mindset affect various outcomes, including student retention and success, particularly during the freshman and sophomore years. Her field of research is undergraduate engineering education. Dr. Kiehlbaugh completed her B.S. and M.S. at the University of Arizona and her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. She is now an Associate Teaching Professor in the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department at her undergraduate alma mater.

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Paul Blowers University of Arizona

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Dr. Paul Blowers received his B.S. in chemical engineering from Michigan State University in 1994 before going on to receive an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champign in 1997 and 1999 in Chem. Eng. He is currently University Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona and was recently promoted to full professor.

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This abstract is intended for the evidence-based practice track of the conference. Nationally, retention in engineering majors through graduation is approximately 30-55%. The University of Arizona’s College of Engineering retention rate through graduation is 46%. Within our Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department, however, we have increased the retention through graduation to 70% through the deployment of a variety of classroom-based interventions throughout our sophomore-year courses.

To achieve this dramatic increase in retention over just the past several years, we developed and deployed specific in-class interventions that utilize engaged learning techniques. Grounded in three well-understood affective learning categories—belongingness, self-efficacy, and metacognition—we arrived at a set of scalable and cost-effective interventions through iterative experimentation in the classroom. This paper will describe several of these interventions, as well as their attendant theoretical supports, to demonstrate that this overall approach is based upon sound educational research. Though we employed universal design as we developed the interventions to increase the retention of all students, here I describe those interventions that are more effective at improving the retention rate of undergraduate women in engineering.

In addition to these structural classroom interventions, we have established a faculty learning community within the College of Engineering to reflect on teaching, share best practices, conduct peer observations, and help restructure key “gateway” courses in other engineering disciplines. A summary of these FLC workshops will also be discussed.

Finally, while we presently have anecdotal, self-reported information from students regarding many of these interventions, we have not scientifically and rigorously studied which interventions are important to which student populations or have the most significant impact on particular outcomes. I will conclude with plans for future work to explore these open questions.

Kiehlbaugh, K., & Blowers, P. (2018, April), Why Women Persist: Evaluating the Impact of Classroom-based Interventions Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--29594

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