Project funded by Division of Engineering Education and Center (BPE)
This project is an investigation of the gatekeepers—including the people, places, programs, and policies—that contribute to demographic variations across high schools in the proportion of students who enroll in an engineering major at a four-year university. Our research takes a macroscopic, systemic view of an entire state’s longitudinal database of high school-to-postsecondary student records to understand how high schools perform in terms of having its students who fit an engineering academic profile actually choose to enroll in an engineering postsecondary program. Enabled by a state-level data set, we investigate variation across high schools for the following underrepresented populations within engineering: women, African Americans, Hispanics, students from low socioeconomic statuses (SES), as well as students from different school contexts (i.e., rural vs urban).
In addition to understanding where there is variation, we also are seeking to understand why certain high schools across the state have higher engineering yields than others. Even within the same school districts, our quantitative data demonstrate high variation, and the second phase of our research focuses on purposefully selected districts and high schools to interrogate that variation. Guided by social cognitive career theory, our qualitative data collection unpacks the complex interactions between students’ goals, interests, and self-efficacies, which are informed by a variety of contextual influences and learning experiences. Importantly, our project focuses on a specific section of the pathway to an engineering career and explores variation across subpopulations and local contexts. Moreover, rather than focusing on single interventions or barriers, we frame our research holistically to understand how the variety of potential gatekeepers might be re-positioned or trained to support a more diverse population of students who choose to enroll in postsecondary engineering programs.
Our poster will present several important findings to date. First, we will display variation in engineering yield by high school as a function of high school size as well as geographical location in the state. These results demonstrate high spatial variation in engineering yield that is not consistent across demographic groups. Second, we will show geographic variation in the relationship between high school course taking (e.g., highest math class taken) and engineering enrollment from two different perspectives—across high schools as well as across colleges within the state. Finally, we will present some of our preliminary qualitative findings that unpacks why variation in engineering postsecondary enrollment exists across high schools within the same school district.
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