The Partnership for Equity (P4E) is funded through the NSF IUSE (Improving Undergraduate STEM Education) program. The goal of the project is to cultivate inclusive professional identities in undergraduate engineering and computer science students. The project team defines inclusive professional identities in terms of four key features: (a) the necessary technical knowledge, skills, and abilities to work in their chosen field; (b) an appreciation for how all kinds of diversity strengthen engineering and computer science as disciplines; (c) knowledge of how to act in inclusive ways and create inclusive environments within their fields; and (d) preparation to consider the impact on a diverse array of people using or otherwise influenced by engineering and computer science endeavors. The project defines diversity in a broad sense including different life experiences, demographic characteristics, problem-solving approaches and personalities, while also placing some emphasis on the experience of populations historically underrepresented in engineering and computer science.
The project has a well-established set of activities operating in most of the first-year engineering courses at partner campuses. During this year of the grant, the emphasis has been placed on maintaining and expanding activities implemented in sophomore, junior, and senior level courses as well as crafting activities for computer science courses. Two key issues that have arisen for project personnel are (1) meaningful engagement, motivation, and professional development of faculty and other instructors; and (2) differences between disciplines (particularly between engineering and computer science, but also between engineering disciplines). The poster will share findings and some successful practices with regard to instructor development and disciplinary diversity that ASEE attendees might be able to use at their own campuses.
Over the past several years, the different institutional climates and diversity of faculty and instructors at the partner campuses have allowed the project team to identify different strategies for working with faculty in a variety of contexts. We have ideas to share about faculty professional development activities and faculty incentives. Furthermore, the project team has recognized the role Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) play in freshman, sophomore and junior level courses on some campuses, particularly in courses with laboratory components. A survey of GTAs is being conducted to learn how these emerging instructors can be better prepared and supported to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their classrooms and laboratories. The poster will share findings of this survey.
Engineering and computer science courses may be taught out of the same academic unit (two of the four partner institutions house computer science and engineering in the same college) and may be considered similar by some. This project has exposed significant differences in how engineering and computer science majors think about their career trajectories. These differences have led to modifications in data collection and the need to carefully consider the applicability of classroom activities. Our poster will highlight how we have adapted our data collection methods to be relevant to both engineering and computer science classes. For example, the primary purpose of the grant is to develop inclusive professional identities. While those pursuing an engineering degree generally have a clear objective of becoming a practicing engineer, the specific goals for a student in a computer science major are often less specific and may include numerous career options. Therefore, assessing inclusive professional identities necessarily looks different for engineering majors and computer science majors.
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