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Work in Progress: Understanding Student Perceptions of Stress as Part of Engineering Culture

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Seeking Resilience and Learning to Thrive Through Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/31312

Download Count

62

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Paper Authors

biography

Karin Jensen University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Karin Jensen is a Teaching Assistant Professor in bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before joining UIUC she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Sanofi Oncology in Cambridge, MA. She earned a bachelor's degree in biological engineering from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia.

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biography

Kelly J. Cross University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dr. Cross completed her doctoral program in the Engineering Education department at Virginia Tech in 2015 and worked as a post-doctoral researcher with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At UIUC she has collaborated with multiple teams of engineering faculty on implementing and assessing instructional innovation. Dr. Cross is currently a Research Scientist in the Department of Bioengineering working to redesign the curriculum through the NSF funded Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) grant. She is a member of the ASEE Leadership Virtual Community of Practice that organizes and facilitates Safe Zone Training workshops. Dr. Cross has conducted multiple workshops on managing personal bias in STEM, both online and in-person. Dr. Cross’ scholarship investigated student teams in engineering, faculty communities of practice, and the intersectionality of multiple identity dimensions. Her research interests include diversity and inclusion in STEM, intersectionality, teamwork and communication skills, assessment, and identity construction. Her teaching philosophy focuses on student centered approaches such as problem-based learning and culturally relevant pedagogy. Dr. Cross’ complimentary professional activities promote inclusive excellence through collaboration.

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Abstract

High levels of stress and anxiety are common amongst college students, particularly engineering students. Students report lack of sleep, grades, competition, change in lifestyle, and other significant stressors throughout their undergraduate education (1, 2). Stress and anxiety have been shown to negatively impact student experience (3-6), academic performance (6-8), and retention (9). Previous studies have focused on identifying factors that cause individual students stress while completing undergraduate engineering degree programs (1). However, it not well-understood how a culture of stress is perceived and is propagated in engineering programs or how this culture impacts student levels of identification with engineering. Further, the impact of student stress has not been directly considered in engineering regarding recruitment, retention, and success. Therefore, our guiding research question is: Does the engineering culture create stress for students that hinder their engineering identity development?

To answer our research question, we designed a sequential mixed methods study with equal priority of quantitative survey data and qualitative individual interviews. Our study participants are undergraduate engineering students across all levels and majors at a large, public university. Our sample goal is 2000 engineering student respondents. We combined three published surveys to build our quantitative data collection instrument, including the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS), Identification with engineering subscale, and Engineering Department Inclusion Level subscale. The objective of the quantitative instrument is to illuminate individual perceptions of the existence of an engineering stress culture (ESC) and create an efficient tool to measure the impact ESC on engineering identity development. Specifically, we seek to understand the relationships among the following constructs; 1) identification with engineering, 2) stress and anxiety, and 3) feelings of inclusion within their department. The focus of this paper presents the results of the pilot of the proposed instrument with 20 participants and a detailed data collection and analysis process.

In an effort to validate our instrument, we conducted a pilot study to refine our data collection process and the results will guide the data collection for the larger study. In addition to identifying relationships among construct, the survey data will be further analyzed to specify which demographics are mediating or moderating factors of these relationships. For example, does a student’s 1st generation status influence their perception of stress or engineering identity development? Our analysis may identify discipline-specific stressors and characterize culture components that promote student anxiety and stress. Our objective is to validate our survey instrument and use it to inform the protocol for the follow-up interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the responses to the survey instrument. Understanding what students view as stressful and how students identify stress as an element of program culture will support the development of interventions to mitigate student stress.

Jensen, K., & Cross, K. J. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Understanding Student Perceptions of Stress as Part of Engineering Culture Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/31312

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