Presentation on theme: "1 Developing into an engineer: the Academic Pathways Study* December 6, 2007 Sheri Sheppard * Project within CAEE, an NSF funded Engineering Education."— Presentation transcript:
1 Developing into an engineer: the Academic Pathways Study* December 6, 2007 Sheri Sheppard * Project within CAEE, an NSF funded Engineering Education Center, 1/1/03-12/31/08
2 Acknowledgement This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ESI , which funds the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. CAEE is a collaboration of five partner universities: Colorado School of Mines, Howard University, Stanford University, University of Minnesota, and University of Washington. For further information see the CAEE Web site at or contact Cindy Atman at
3 Outline of Presentation A.Framing of the APS B. "What have we learned about engineering students and their transitions to the world of work? And what are the implications for educational practice?" C. What is next…
4 The Pipeline Metaphor 1. Expresses the typical process students take in preparation to become engineers 2.Expresses the activity of students who prematurely exit the preparation process 3.Expresses the activities being done to repair the preparation process 1 2 3
5 The Pipeline Metaphor 1. Expresses the typical process students take in preparation to become engineers 2.Expresses the activity of students who prematurely exit the preparation process 3.Expresses the activities being done to repair the preparation process 4.Expresses the successful exit as an engineer
6 Subset of Pipeline
7 detached… attached…
8 APS Research Questions Skills How do students’ engineering skills and knowledge develop and/or change over time? Identity How do pre/engineering students identify themselves? How do these students come to identify themselves as engineers? How do student appreciation, confidence, and commitment to engineering change as they navigate their education? What communities do engineering students belong to? How does belonging to a community contribute to their identity? Education How do pre/engineering students navigate their educations? What elements of students’ engineering educations contribute to changes observed in their skills and identity? What do students find difficult and how do they deal with the difficulties they face?
9 Classification of Student Outcomes by Type of Outcome & Type of Data (from A. Astin *) * A. Astin, What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited, 1993 …as affected by “E” environmental factors (institutional characteristics, curricular measures, Faculty environment, peer environment, individual involvement measures).
10 Classification of Student Outcomes being studied in APS* …as affected by “E” factors: gender, race & ethnicity, institutional structures, etc. * Based on A. Astin, What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited, 1993
11 Academic Pathways Study (APS) Sheppard (Lead), Atman, Fleming, Miller, Smith, Stevens, Streveler –Large scale, multi-method, longitudinal study of undergraduate engineering students, class of 2007, UW, Howard, CSM, Stanford (160 students) –Cross-sectional study at 24 institutions, small-large, (>5000 students) From the student’s perspective…
15 Assessment of Research Questions By Methodology Ethnograph y w/Semi- structured Interviews Structured Interviews Engineering Design Tasks Surveys (PIE, APPLE) Cognitive (Skills) Affective (Identity) “E” Factors:
16 What have we learned: selected findings from the APS team Cognitive--Persistence (Sheppard) –Decision Making & “persistence” –Persistence in a field Cognitive--Design Skills (Atman) “E” Factors & Institutional Distinctions (Fleming) Affective--Identity (Stevens)
17 Should I Stay or Should I Go? Undergraduates’ Prior Exposure to Engineering and Their Intentions to Major INTENTIONpositiveunsure low high EXPOSURE For those with an identified interest in engineering, even most students who are unsure of majoring in engineering and who have little prior exposure to engineering choose to major in engineering
18 MATRICULATION MAJOR Other STEM (44%) Engr. (59%)
19 72% with preliminary interest in engineering
20 52% with preliminary interest in engineering 88% with preliminary interest in engineering What are the gender and race & ethnicity make-up in these various engineering fields?
21 As of June 2007, complex and still forming lives… How typical is this of the 400? How typical is this of Stanford students? How typical is this of engineering majors nationally?
22 APPLES with Cross-sectional Sample, sample findings… (Cohort 3 schools)
23 What have we learned: selected findings from the APS team Cognitive--Persistence (Sheppard) –Decision Making & “persistence” –Persistence in a field Cognitive--Design Skills (Atman) “E” Factors & Institutional Distinctions (Fleming) Affective--Identity (Stevens)
24 Design Skills & Perceptions Year 1 –Women more context-oriented than men ٭ –Women equally capable with design details ٭ Year 4 –Conceptions of engineering practice –Preparedness for engineering practice Year 1 vs. Year 4, longitudinal –Changes in conceptions of design
25 Engineering Design: Freshmen Take 1 Survey Question: You have been asked to design a playground. You have a limited amount of time and resources to gather information for your design. From the following list, please put a check mark next to the five kinds of information you would MOST LIKELY NEED as you work on your design…
26 Information Categories by Gender * p < 0.10 or ** p < 0.05, Fisher exact
27 Engineering Design: Freshmen Take 2 Ten Minute Paper and Pencil Engineering Task: Over the summer the Midwest experienced massive flooding of the Mississippi River. What factors would you take into account in designing a retaining wall system for the Mississippi?
28 Examples of Detail and Context Design detail –“cost of materials” –“check the budget available for the operation” –“how to contain the river water that has flooded out” Design context –“aesthetic appeal – is it going to draw local complaint?” –“the surrounding habitat – make sure little or no damage is done to the environment” –“would wall impact use of the river by industry?”
29 Detail vs. Context Factors by Gender Factors by category and by gender (all APS, N=51 F + 92 M) significant difference, p < 0.02 F M
30 Engineering Design.. an emerging picture from the first year… Considering context – gender differences –men: emphasis on details of solution such as material, financial... –women: emphasis on contextual factors such as social, natural... Conceptualizing design – gender differences –men: emphasis on building, prototyping... –women: emphasis on gathering information, planning...
31 ETD Selected findings Year 1 –Women more context-oriented than men ٭ –Women equally capable with design details ٭ Year 4 –Low importance, preparation for contextual issues ٭ –High importance, preparation for “people” skills »Year 1 vs. Year 4, longitudinal –Changes in conceptions of design
32 Conceptions of design: Important design activities Of the twenty-three design activities below, please put a check mark next to the SIX MOST IMPORTANT...
33 Important design activities, by year Significant changes asterisked (**p 0.01, *p 0.05). Year 1 vs. 4
34 Important design activities, changes Significant Year 1–4 changes asterisked (**p 0.01, *p 0.05). Identifying constraints** Evaluating Modeling Generating alternatives Prototyping Making trade-offs Iterating** Decomposing Synthesizing Sketching up in Year 4 Communicating* Planning** Using creativity Building Visualizing** Imagining Abstracting down in Year 4
35 ETD Summary Complex gender differences –First-year women more context-oriented, but not at the expense of focus on design details. –Implications on continuing challenge to recruit, retain women. Meeting the ABET a–k and 2020 challenges –Seniors value and have learned traditional “core” engineering, as well as some “people” skills (teamwork, communication). –...but not issues of societal/global context, contemporary issues.
36 What have we learned: selected findings from the APS team Cognitive--Persistence (Sheppard) –Decision Making & “persistence” –Persistence in a field Cognitive--Design Skills (Atman) “E” Factors & Institutional Distinctions (Fleming) Affective--Identity (Stevens)
37 Institutional Factors Fleming, Lead; Ledbetter, McCain, Williams Admission Policy Access to Resources Experiences Within University Environment Diversity Issues
38 To What Extent Do You Consider Your School to be Diverse?
39 Does Your Gender Affect Your Views of Becoming an Engineer?
40 Female Student’s View Does your gender affect your views of becoming an engineer? “… there are societies, like Society for Women Engineers…that does help change our perspective on being an engineer …it’s ‘cause I’m female, because I’m a minority and I’m not used to being like that because I’m a white middle class individual … it’s hard to become an engineer, it’s real intimidating to be ahm, working for… predominantly all males…it’s kind of a challenge to me, …I can do this, I can pioneer this and be a female engineer, be just as good as a male engineer” Mountain Tech
41 Male Students’ View Does your gender affect your views of becoming an engineer? “…if the females... have an advantage, just because [of] things like affirmative action … where they give certain advantages to some minorities, I wonder if it is a disadvantage being the majority?” University of West State-M “It’s more natural for males to be engineers.” Coleman University-M
42 Diversity Summary To most engineering students, diversity means difference (school, gender, race, geographical, major field, politics, religion). Diversity can be an uncomfortable topic for students to discuss. Students recognize the impact of diversity on their careers.
43 What’s Next? Mountains of data to be analyzed.... stay tuned Possible Relationships to WASC: Study of knowledge evolution Curricular Flow-educational careers study (Dan McFarland) Model for study in other fields
44 Extra slides
45 APPLES with Cohort 3 Schools, sample findings…
46 What have we learned: selected findings from the APS team Decision Making & “persistence”; (Sheppard) Identity (Stevens) Design Skills and Perceptions (Atman) Institutional Factors (Fleming)
47 Identity٭: Becoming an Engineer Stevens, Lead; Amos, Garrison, Jocuns Identification –The practices by which an individual becomes identified with engineering (by her/himself and by others) Navigation –How individuals navigate a pathway to becoming an engineer Accountable Disciplinary Knowledge –Actions when performed are counted by someone as engineering knowledge
48 Identification (Changes over time) Increasing solidarity with other engineering students –We/they language, “Techies” and “Fuzzies” –Identity displays – websites, clothing, social activities Increasing expression of views that they are different from non-engineering students –Engineering work is harder –Harder work justifies future lifestyle
49 Navigation at UWest Different navigational pathways have a clear effect on identification of students as engineers –Students not admitted during their first year can be lost during this pre-engineering phase. –Once admitted to engineering majors, students are granted literal “keys to the clubhouse” — a critical rite of passage that changes how students identify themselves as engineers. –Students also took a more agentive stance to coursework and learning once admitted.
50 Gender Identity/Navigation at UWest Women and men both form identities as engineers that seem quite similar across the genders and draw on stereotypical engineering image (problem solver, good at math, etc.) However, in competitive admission practices at UWest women students are believed to have an advantage over men; presence of organizations supporting women also seen by men as evidence that women need help. Men use this explanation of women having an advantage in admission to set up a rationale (that involves no fault of their own) for their potential failure to get into the major. It is suggested that some believe that women who get into the major may be less qualified than men who do not. This leads to women working to “prove themselves” or working to appear deserving of being in engineering. This seems cultivate some stereotype threat (Steele). Women go ‘underground’—seeking help from other women as a first resort, makes them sensitive to criticism of their male peers
51 Accountable Disciplinary Knowledge (Changes over time) During first two years: –Technical subject matter prerequisites (mathematics, physics, chemistry) outside of engineering. Little exposure to engineering coursework. –Lecture-based teaching, individual-based problem sets and exams (except labs) During latter two years: –Kinds of problems to be solved shifts to more open-ended problems –Students’ relationship to data changes. They go from mathematical puzzle solvers to data users to data collectors –Biggest changes in accountable disciplinary knowledge come through in experiences of Capstone project cours e
52 Accountable Disciplinary Knowledge (Changes over time) Examples of two UWest students handling this change over time: –Adam struggled as problem-set based mathematics (school math) was displaced by group work and open-ended problems –Simon came into his element with the AA capstone; he drew on his wind tunnel experience (he ran the wind tunnel at UWest) and was the expert in some of the tests (even in relation to the professors/instructors)
53 Identity Summary Complex relationships between –Identification –Navigation –Accountable Disciplinary Knowledge Pathways for individuals vary greatly
54 What have we learned: selected findings from the APS team Decision Making & “persistence”; (Sheppard) Identity (Stevens) Design Skills and Perceptions (Atman) Institutional Factors (Fleming)