Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Educational Research and Methods
This Work In Progress paper (WIP) presents data to support the argument that researchers need to guard against an assumption of homogeneity in demographic groups. As research in engineering education is conducted, differences between demographic groups (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, etc.) are often noted as meaningful moderators of outcomes. However, we argue demographic groups must be disaggregated or separated into smaller subgroups to uncover distinctions that would otherwise go unnoticed (e.g., the difference between female international students and female domestic students). We hypothesize that disaggregation of traditionally studied demographic groups will promote a more nuanced understanding of the experiences of smaller subsets of students. Therefore, this research is guided by the question, “How can we disaggregate engineering graduate student demographic data to quantitatively evaluate identity development in understudied groups?”
This work is part of a larger mixed-methods study in which we are examining the experiences of engineering graduate students in the context of identity and motivation frameworks. In this paper, we will utilize data from a large national survey of engineering graduate students to demonstrate examples of meaningful disaggregation of demographic groups. The survey instrument, which contains Likert-type measures of graduate students’ future-time perspectives, identity-based motivations, identities, and academic experiences, was piloted at two institutions (large southeastern and large western), garnering nearly 350 responses. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were used to uncover the factor structures of the items as well as to assist in the item cutting process and achieve a 15 minute survey. The survey is being deployed nationally to a representative sample of engineering students based on state, program type (e.g., electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, etc.) and program size (i.e., number of Ph.Ds awarded per year). We expect to collect at least 5000 student responses by early 2018.
With the anticipated large sample size, we will be able to explore demographic groups that have traditionally been aggregated due to relatively small populations of these students and small sample sizes. In particular, will use an intersectional lens to explore the differences in experiences of racial/ethnic groups, women, and LGBTQ students. Intersectionality is the concept that minority identities multiply identity-focused experiences and will highlight the ways demographic groups need to be disaggregated. Differences in race/ethnicity, gender and sexual identity -- or combinations of the three -- change the experiences and perceptions of students. For example, a Latina lesbian has meaningfully different experiences compared to a heterosexual Latina, who in-turn has different experiences from a heterosexual White woman. Results of this work will demonstrate the need for researchers to look beyond traditionally defined demographics for meaningful differences in experiences in graduate engineering education. These differences can be used to improve recruitment and retention efforts by providing additional background for current programs. Future research can utilize the highlighted differences within demographic groups to identify new directions for research into recruitment and retention of engineering graduate students.
Bahnson, M., & Perkins, H. L., & Tsugawa-Nieves, M. A., & Kirn, A., & Cass, C. (2018, June), WIP: A Case for Disaggregating Demographic Data Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/31245
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