Engineering culture values particular ways of being, thinking, and knowing that can be exclusive for some students. Students' feelings of belonging are a number one reason why students leave engineering. As a result, this misalignment influences how students develop and author their identity as an engineer. This project focuses on characterizing the underlying attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets (i.e., latent diversity) that students bring with them into engineering as well as how the culture of engineering may support these students or not. This project studies latent diversity through a national survey and longitudinal narrative interviews to answer three research questions: 1) What kinds of diversity in attitudes, beliefs, and mindsets (i.e., latent diversity) are present in engineering students?; 2) How do undergraduate students with latent diversity form engineering identities within an engineering community of practice over time?; and 3) What support, both inside and outside of the classroom, can be provided to promote inclusion of students with latent diversity in engineering? The outcomes of this research include broadening the spectrum of what it means to be an engineer through inclusive pedagogical practices in the classroom.
Previously, we administered 3, 855 paper-based surveys to 32 ABET accredited institutions to understand students’ incoming latent diversity. These responses were used to characterize latent diversity with Topological Data Analysis (TDA) using personality dimensions (i.e., neuroticism and conscientiousness), physics, mathematics, and engineering role identities (i.e., performance/competence beliefs, interest, and recognition), belonging (i.e., in engineering and the engineering classroom), internal and external motivation beliefs, and epistemic beliefs. This analysis resulted in six groupings of students of latent diversity. Twenty-five students were selected from these groups for longitudinal narrative interviews to understand their experiences and development throughout their undergraduate engineering education. The first round of interviews was designed to understand students' background and pathway to engineering. The second round of interviews involved asking the students to complete a journey map to guide the interview focused on understanding their identity trajectory. Our data analysis strategy consisted of narrative construction and narrative indexing. We constructed restoryed case narratives for each interview as a way to capture the students’ stories highlighting their background and pathway to engineering and throughout each year of their engineering education. In addition to these narrative constructions, we also compiled an index that tracks patterns in participants' developing narratives over time. This index includes students' personal information (i.e., group membership, major, and life changes), identity-building experiences, specifically aligned to the identity trajectory strands, and unique elements or connections among participants. We are continuing to conduct narrative interviews with students for the next two years along with student-generated event-logs and distributing a second version of the survey to understand how students' membership in one of six groups changes or remains constant. This research will be used to understand how to promote inclusive classrooms, as well as to understand how students’ engineering identity shifts over time.
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