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Work in Progress: Minority Bias in Peer Evaluations at a Freshman-level Engineering Cornerstone Course

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Minorities in Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Catalina Cortázar Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

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Catalina Cortázar is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at DiLab the Design initiative at the School of Engineering at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Catalina holds a bachelor degree in Civil Engineering, with concentration in Structural Design. After graduating and working at an Engineering firm in Chile, Catalina completed a master’s degree in media studies at The New School, and a MFA in Design and Technology @ Parsons The New School for Design, New York.
At DiLab Catalina teaches and coordinates the Engineering Challenges course which aims to initiate freshmen students in to engineering design practices by encouraging students to develop a project following a user-centered design process.
She also teaches Visual Thinking, the exploratory course of the Major in Engineering, Design, and Innovation. This course addresses the theories and ideas that sustain the visual thinking process as well as methodologies and practical implementation of visual representation through infographics, computer graphics, and physical computing. The course focus on representing the narrative of the findings using visual tools.
Catalina has been directing FabLabUC since 2015. FabLabUC is a fabrication laboratory located at the Innovation Center, PUC .
Currently she is pursuing a PhD in Computer Sciences with a research focus on Engineering Education at PUC.

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Isabel Hilliger Pontificia Universidad Catholica de Chile Orcid 16x16

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Isabel Hilliger is the Associate Director for Assessment and Evaluation at the Engineering Education Division in Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC). Isabel received a BEng from UC and an MA in Education Policy from Stanford University. She is currently a PhD Candidate in Computer Science at UC-Engineering. Her research theme is the use of methodologies and analytical tools for continuous curriculum improvement in Higher Education. She has created qualitative and quantitative instruments for outcome assessment in enginering education. She has also evaluated policy efforts towards engineering diversity and undergraduate research.

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Collaborative learning supports the development of skills such as leadership, effective communication, and conflict resolution. To evaluate collaborative learning in the context of teamwork, peer evaluations are widely used in different learning environments. Although this type of instrument has helped to address disparities in work distribution (i.e. freeriding), minority biases have not been explored in detail. Due to its importance in collaborative learning, this study explores minority bias in peer evaluations applied in a freshman cornerstone course at a School of Engineering. Each semester 750 students enroll in the course, with around 25% being females, 15% coming from low-income families who enroll through an alternative admission program, and 20% coming from none metropolitan areas in a country that is highly centralized.

In this course, collaborative learning is key to initiate freshmen into engineering design practices by following a user-centered design process. It is expected that students develop the ability to identify and solve a real problem regarding diverse contextual factors, and the ability to work successfully in a team. Concerning assessment methods, the course measures students’ performance at an individual and team level. At the latter, students are required to submit different project deliverables as the course progresses. After each deliverable students are peer assessed in order to grade their individual contribution to the teamwork. The peer assessment considers three different aspects: contribution to team meetings, contribution to the working environment, and individual contribution outside the meetings.

Along these lines, this study used descriptive and inferential statistics techniques to analyze if bias exists when peer assessing minorities. 238 teams were analyzed, which were composed by 2.057 freshmen that completed this cornerstone course during three consecutive years. Preliminary findings show that bias exists when peer-assessing low-income minority students who enrolled through an alternative admission process and that there might be bias toward students who come from none metropolitan areas. Females were assessed higher compared to the male students’ averages. Future work implies the design of interventions to address the issues within these results.

Cortázar, C., & Hilliger, I. (2019, June), Work in Progress: Minority Bias in Peer Evaluations at a Freshman-level Engineering Cornerstone Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33638

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