Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Michael Savaria, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, MA
Federal and institution-level initiatives, while making a substantive effort, have not significantly increased representation of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate majors. While much research has focused on academic factors (e.g., high school GPA), either prior to entering or upon completion of the first year at a university, we sought to identify student engagement indicators (e.g., campus climate) that can be used as a groundwork for educational interventions. We conducted a secondary data analysis on de-identified quantitative data from the National Survey of Student Engagement from a large public university to identify differences in engagement indicators using t-tests; such as working with other students, connecting ideas and learning to other disciplines, and interactions among students and faculty between STEM and non-STEM majors. We paired this with a qualitative critical discourse analysis (CDA) to analyze STEM course syllabi, which provides key insights and perceptions into the course. This mixed methodology allowed for a large scale focus to determine significant indicators at the university level and a fine scale focus to assess the use of those indicators on a course level. Quantitative results revealed significant differences in engagement indicators between STEM and non-STEM course experiences. STEM majors reported courses contained significantly fewer instances of course content connecting learning to larger societal problems or issues (t(691) = 6.45, p < .001) and fewer connections to prior knowledge (t(1067) = 3.23, p = .001). In contrast, non-STEM majors reported courses including more instances of reflective learning (i.e., evaluating own views on a topic), significantly more often than STEM students (t(717) = 3.99, p < .001). Investigating interactions with faculty revealed that STEM majors discussed their career plans with a faculty member less frequently (t(1081) = 2.41, p = .02), worked with a faculty member on a research project less often (t(659) = 4.33, p < .001), were helped less often when faced with academic difficulties (t(891) = 2.21, p = .03), and were less informed of important deadlines (t(1024) = 2.28, p = .02) than non-STEM majors. STEM majors also perceived understanding people from other backgrounds than their own to a lesser extent (t(661) = 6.09, p < .001). The CDA of course syllabi provided evidence of limited inclusion of: course-level student learning outcomes, biographical information on the instructor, connections to majors and topics outside of engineering, encouragement of interactions, personal growth and societal impacts of engineers, and acknowledgement of underrepresented groups. We found that student engagement experiences within STEM fields are significantly different than non-STEM fields. We recommend several interventions that faculty can employ to develop their courses and syllabi to includes practices of multicultural education and promote student engagement.