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Work In Progress: Examining the Impacts of a Sociotechnical Approach to Energy Education on Engineering Students’ Sense of Belonging and Attitudes Toward Engineering

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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July 26, 2021

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July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

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Student Division Technical Session 3

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Felicity Bilow Clarkson University

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Felicity Bilow is a student at Clarkson University studying civil engineering.

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Jan DeWaters P.E. Clarkson University

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Jan DeWaters is an Associate Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering at Clarkson University, in Potsdam, New York. She teaches introductory courses on energy issues and energy systems, and is part of the development team for Clarkson’s First Year Engineering/Interdisciplinary course. Her current research interests include the implementation and evaluation of evidence-based effective learning practices in STEM education, environmental education, and energy education.

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Gordon D. Hoople University of San Diego Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Gordon D. Hoople is an assistant professor and one of the founding faculty members of integrated engineering at the University of San Diego. He is passionate about creating engaging experiences for his students. His work is primarily focused on two areas: engineering education and design. Professor Hoople’s engineering education research examines the ways in which novel approaches can lead to better student outcomes. He is the principal investigator on the National Science Foundation Grant “Reimagining Energy: Exploring Inclusive Practices for Teaching Energy Concepts to Undergraduate Engineering Majors.” He has also co-developed a unique interdisciplinary course, Drones for Good, where engineering students partner with peace studies students to design a quadcopter that will have a positive impact on society.

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This paper, submitted as a work in progress, explores how using a sociotechnical approach in two sophomore-level energy courses at two different universities affect students’ energy-related knowledge, attitudes, and feelings of self-efficacy by using data from a pre- and post- survey. Energy in engineering education is often taught in a lecture based setting where students learn what is used to generate energy, and how energy is created and distributed, without giving much thought to the broader aspects of energy (i.e. social, cultural, environmental factors).(1) However, one energy course taught at Clarkson University (CU) and another course taught at the University of San Diego (USD) provide two alternative ways of teaching engineering students about energy within a broader societal context . In Introduction to Energy Systems, which is taught at CU, students are introduced to fundamental energy principles, examine energy flows on a national and global scale, and explore various energy conversion systems through research and discourse. The other course, Integrated Approach to Energy, is taught at USD and takes a holistic look at how energy is generated and used, with an emphasis on helping students make connections between energy, engineering, and their lived experience.

The survey used in this study combined questions from an Energy Literacy Survey and an Engineering Attitudes Survey, which included questions about students’ attitudes towards engineering, feelings of self-efficacy, and technical energy knowledge. This survey was administered to students from both universities before and after taking their respective course during the Spring 2020 semester.

Preliminary results of the pre- and post- survey show a statistically significant gain in energy technical knowledge for students from both universities (CU pre: 75% post: 82% paired t-test, p<0.001, USD pre: 66% post: 75% paired t-test, p<0.01). Analysis of students’ responses to questions about their attitudes towards engineering and feelings of self-efficacy reveal general trends that suggest this approach to teaching could have an impact on increasing students’ feelings of self-efficacy and attitudes toward engineering, with a more pronounced impact on females compared to males. As of yet, we have insufficient data to draw statistically meaningful conclusions to this statement.

These preliminary findings propose that the use of a sociotechnical approach in energy education is effective in enhancing students’ knowledge of energy. Future research is needed to evaluate the impact on women engineering students’ views and attitudes towards careers in engineering.

References Nelson, M., & Hoople, G. D., & Mejia, J. A., & Chen, D., & Lord, S. M. (2020, June), What is Energy? Examining Engineering Students’ Conceptions of Energy Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Online . 10.18260/1-2--35500

Bilow, F., & DeWaters, J., & Hoople, G. D. (2021, July), Work In Progress: Examining the Impacts of a Sociotechnical Approach to Energy Education on Engineering Students’ Sense of Belonging and Attitudes Toward Engineering Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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