This paper reports on progress of our work exploring the influence of engineering summer camps on students’ interests and identities. We explored middle school students’ identity and interest development as this is when students make decisions to pursue STEM careers. Additionally, summer camps were explored as they exist at many colleges of engineering and represent one area of interaction between K-12 and engineering education. We involved three camp populations (all female, first-generation and open enrollment) of mostly middle school students in this study at a western land-grant university. The objective of this mixed-methods research study is to answer three research questions: (1) How strongly are engineering identity and interest linked to the intention to pursue engineering as a major in college and as a future career? (2) Which specific activities in the camps lead to a change in identity and interest in engineering? (3) To what extent and in what ways do the qualitative participant focus group interviews and observations of participants engaged in camp activities addressing research question (2) contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the quantitative data obtained via pre- and post-surveys addressing research question (1)?
We developed protocols for the quantitative and qualitative phases of data collection. Data collection protocols for our survey and focus groups were adapted from the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation Student Attitudes toward STEM Survey. The protocol and worksheet for the observations were adapted from the Individualized Classroom Assessment Scoring System (inCLASS). Adaptations were made so that the protocols better align with the context of the current study. Quantitative data consisted of identical pre- and post-surveys delivered to the participants on days 1 and 4 respectively of the week-long camps. Qualtrics was used for data collection and SPSS for analysis. Qualitative data collection consisted of recording daily observational notes on participants involved in camp activities, using the worksheet. Most camp activities were part of the observations and videotaped. Focus group interviews were conducted using a prepared protocol that involved open-ended questions related to identity, interest, and career aspirations and based on the pre- and post-surveys. Each twenty minute focus group consisted of 5 participants, and was videotaped.
To date, preliminary analysis of the quantitative data indicates that there is a statistically significant positive change in the participants’ perception of their ability to perform science and engineering tasks. Preliminary analysis of the focus group interviews that have been professionally transcribed and checked for accuracy by the PI and graduate student, has consisted of first-cycle manual coding. Initial results indicate that there is a positive change in engineering interest and identity of the participants due to the summer camps. Results of both the quantitative and qualitative analysis will be presented. Initial results have been utilized to further refine camp activities and future work will focus on understanding which activities and approaches serve to positively foster students’ identities and interests so that we can transfer these findings to other summer camps and informal K-12 education programs.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.