Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Pre-College Engineering Education
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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