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WIP: Student Dispositions Toward STEM: Exploring an Engineering Summer Camp for Underrepresented Students

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Technical Session 9

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jeanna R. Wieselmann Southern Methodist University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jeanna R. Wieselmann is a Research Assistant Professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. Her research focuses on gender equity in STEM and maintaining elementary girls' interest in STEM through both in-school and out-of-school experiences. Dr. Wieselmann's research has explored student participation patterns in small group STEM activities. She is interested in STEM schools, integrated STEM curriculum development, and teacher professional development to support gender-equitable teaching practices.

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Richard Duschl Southern Methodist University

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Executive Director, Caruth Institute for Engineering Education; Texas Instrument Distinguish Chair; Past-President NARST (2008-11); Chair, NRC 2007 Report "Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8"; Research interests include designing integrated STEM learning environments the promote epistemic reasoning and argumentation discourse.

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Kristine Reiley Southern Methodist University

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Kristine R. Reiley joined the SMU Lyle School of Engineering staff at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in March 2009 as an administrative contractor to assist with the operations of the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education (CIEE). In January 2010 she became an official SMU staff member of the Caruth Institute as a Program Specialist for the Executive Director. From January 2010 through December 2017 Kristine served as the Coordinator for the CIEE. Kristine is now the Program Specialist for K-12 Outreach and Summer Camps for the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, the Assistant Director of TEDxSMU and the Executive Director of the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

Prior to joining the CIEE, Kristine was a first grade teacher at First Baptist Academy (FBA) in Universal City, Texas for eight years. She was the first grade department chair from December 2002 to May 2009. While at FBA, Kristine was also appointed to the Extended Learning Services (ELS) department, which offered before school activities for the elementary students. She was the team leader for the summer activities program at FBA as well.

In addition to her faculty duties at FBA, Kristine administered entrance exams for new incoming elementary students. She developed and coordinated an elective reading program called Reading Plus for students who had difficulties in language arts. In her earlier days at FBA, Kristine served as the Head Coach for the FBA Boys Junior High Team from August 2001 to May 2004.

Kristine graduated from Sul Ross State University in Uvalde in 2000, with her B.A. in Education with an additional emphasis in English. In addition to being an avid sports fan, Kristine spends her free time with her dog and volunteering with her church, the Cary HOSTS program at Edward Cary Middle School, and the Presbyterian Children’s Home and Services.

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Kenneth Berry Southern Methodist University

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Dr. Kenneth Berry is the Associate STEM Director at the Caruth Institute in the Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University (SMU). He has worked as an education specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory until he received his doctorate in Educational Technology in 2001. He then taught at the Michael D. Eisner School of Education at California State University at Northridge (CSUN). In 2009, he moved to Texas to work at the Science and Engineering Education Center, and Caruth Institute of Engineering Education. He specializes in Engineering, STEM, and Project Based Learning instruction.

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Engineering fields continue to grow rapidly, resulting in an increasing demand for skilled workers. However, representation within engineering fields is often inequitable, with women, Latinos, and African Americans underrepresented in these professions. Students’ career interests in middle and high school are predictive of whether they attain STEM degrees, so efforts to increase the representation of women and non-Asian minorities have often focused on providing students with authentic opportunities in engineering. This pilot study investigates a university-based summer camp for students entering grades 9-12 and addresses the research question: How, if at all, are biological sex and grade related to student dispositions toward STEM following an engineering summer camp?

This work draws upon the learning activation framework, which considers dispositions, skills, and knowledge that enable success in STEM learning experiences. As students develop dispositions, skills, and knowledge that lead to success in the present situation, the likelihood of success in the future increases, forming positive feedback loops. The framework is based on the premise that dispositions are malleable, so opportunities to engage in authentic engineering may influence students’ future actions related to engineering.

This pilot study was situated within the context of an engineering summer camp for high school students in the South-Central U.S. Students entering grades 9 and 10 attended a five-day camp, while those entering grades 11 and 12 attended a two-week residential summer camp. Camp sections for girls and boys were run separately, maintaining a single-sex learning environment. During the camp, students explored topics related to engineering, with a focus on hands-on activities and projects supported by undergraduate engineering students. All students were from disadvantaged schools and received scholarships to attend the camp. A total of 50 participants were included in this study.

This study used four Activation Lab survey instruments to measure camp participants’ fascination in STEM, competency beliefs in STEM, valuing of STEM, and innovation stance in STEM. The surveys were administered at the end of the camp, allowing for an exploration of differences in student dispositions based on grade and biological sex. A two-way ANOVA was used with grade band (9-10 vs. 11-12) and sex as predictor variables and the survey scores as dependent variables. Findings revealed that there were no statistically significant differences between groups based on grade, sex, or the interaction between the two variables.

As this work is further developed beyond the pilot stage, several important considerations must be made. First, because the pilot used the surveys at one point in time, it is not possible to determine whether camp activities had a positive effect on students’ dispositions. Future studies should use a pre-post design. Second, although students in this study came from disadvantaged schools, there were likely self-selection effects in choosing to attend the camp. Thus, these students cannot be considered representative of the population of high school students in general. Finally, longitudinal work is needed to more fully understand the experiences of underrepresented students as they consider whether to pursue careers in engineering.

Wieselmann, J. R., & Duschl, R., & Reiley, K., & Berry, K. (2020, June), WIP: Student Dispositions Toward STEM: Exploring an Engineering Summer Camp for Underrepresented Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35570

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