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Work in Progress: Undergraduate Socialization in Engineering: The Role of Institutional Tactics and Proactive Behaviors

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Institutional Change

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Trevion S. Henderson University of Michigan

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Trevion Henderson is a doctoral student in the Center for Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE) at the University of Michigan. He recently earned his master's degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The Ohio State University while serving as a graduate research associate with the Center for Higher Education Enterprise. Trevion also hold's a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Engineering from The Ohio State University, where he served as a research assistant in the College of Education and Human Ecology Center for Inclusion, Diversity, and Academic Success.

Trevion's research interests center on three foci in Engineering Education: pedagogical strategies, practices and policies that broaden minority participation, and curricular design for meeting workforce and industry needs.

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Cynthia J. Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia Finelli is Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Associate Professor of Education, and Director and Graduate Chair for Engineering Education Research Programs at University of Michigan (U-M). Dr. Finelli is a fellow in the American Society of Engineering Education, a Deputy Editor of the Journal for Engineering Education, an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education, and past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of ASEE. She founded the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering at U-M in 2003 and served as its Director for 12 years. Prior to joining U-M, Dr. Finelli was the Richard L. Terrell Professor of Excellence in Teaching, founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and associate professor of electrical engineering at Kettering University.

Dr. Finelli's current research interests include student resistance to active learning, faculty adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, the use of technology and innovative pedagogies on student learning and success, and the impact of a flexible classroom space on faculty teaching and student learning. She also led a project to develop a taxonomy for the field of engineering education research, and she was part of a team that studied ethical decision-making in engineering students.

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Joanna Mirecki Millunchick University of Michigan

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Joanna Mirecki Millunchick is a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan. She is active in scientific and pedagogical research. Her current work in education research revolves around examining student use of multimedia resources such as screencasts and virtual reality to improve their performance in large lecture courses. She is the former Academic Director for M-STEM Academies, a program devoted to strengthening and diversifying the cohort of students who receive their baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Currently, she is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education in the College of Engineering.

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The paper is being submitted as a work in progress for the ERM Division.

Higher education literature is replete with evidence that socioeconomic variables and background characteristics inform a myriad of factors related to students’ college life. These include the institutions students choose to attend, their experiences after matriculation, differences in success rates, and even post-graduation outcomes. This is particularly true in engineering, where gaps in academic performance, persistence, and degree attainment still endure despite the litany of federal, institutional, and unit-level resources designed to address socioeconomic disparities.

In contrast to much of the literature that takes a deficit-based approach, in this work we presuppose that it is not simply differences in socioeconomic variables and background characteristics that separates highly engaged, successful students in engineering from their less engaged, unsuccessful counterparts. Rather, we suggest that an underlying set of socialization processes by which students become familiar with collegiate engineering education makes students more or less likely to engage in activities that are associated with success. We posit that students’ experiences with these socialization processes – institutional socialization tactics and proactive behaviors – may better explain patterns of participation and outcomes in engineering that go beyond the consideration of access to academic and social resources.

Drawing on Weidman’s Undergraduate Socialization framework, we developed a conceptual model for understanding the socialization processes that inform engineering students’ participation in co-curricular activities (specifically professional engineering societies and student design teams). This model is guided by three hypotheses. First, we hypothesize that socioeconomic, academic, and demographic background characteristics combine to uniquely inform students’ experiences with two socialization processes – institutional tactics and proactive behaviors. This, in turn, informs their participation in co-curricular activities, such as professional engineering societies and student design teams. Finally, students who participate in co-curricular engineering activities have different academic and social outcomes than their counterparts who do not participate in co-curricular engineering activities. We also developed a survey instrument based on this model to understand how various socioeconomic variables and background characteristics inform students’ socialization processes and, as a result, their outcomes in engineering.

Our goal is to understand the factors that shape students’ socialization into engineering, as well as their development into engineers. Ultimately, our goal is to narrow gaps in participation and success in engineering by addressing negative socialization experiences.

Henderson, T. S., & Finelli, C. J., & Millunchick, J. M. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Undergraduate Socialization in Engineering: The Role of Institutional Tactics and Proactive Behaviors Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31311

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