This Research paper presents the assessment of a six-week summer mentoring program at a large research university located in a predominantly Black and Hispanic community in the southeastern part of the United States. The program considers theory on culturally responsive pedagogy and explores the nexus between the engineering design process and literature on mentoring and summer intervention programs . Data is analyzed from the first year of a three-year longitudinal study which draws participants from three populations simultaneously: 1. Underrepresented minority middle school youth that participate as rising 7th or 8th graders (URM Mentees), 2. Engineering undergraduate students in the early years of their matriculation (Engineering Mentors), and 3. Experienced pre-service teachers or early in-service teachers (novice math and science teachers, (NMST) Mentors). During the first week, the program administers a 16-hour training on culturally responsive teaching to a cohort of 5 NMST Mentors and 15 Engineering Mentors, serving as design team leads and role models. Each of the 20 mentors is matched up with 2-3 URM Mentees for the remaining 5 weeks of the program. As a design team, participants are asked to solve ill-formed problems together. The program devotes equal time to life skill activities and technical skill activities with the goal of promoting strong relationships between all participants that facilitate identity development. After the intervention, participants are engaged through follow-up activities that allow for transformational relationships to persist after the program.
The program advances literature on culturally responsive teaching and learning particularly involving URMs with limited exposure to engineering. In addition, the design process itself is also developed based on literature around cultural responsiveness, relying on a shared narrative between design projects, scaffolding, and analogy to relevant life skills that translate outside of the engineering context. Three research questions are assessed, focusing on the critical components of the program including culturally responsive pedagogy, mentoring culturally diverse students in intervention programs, and translation of lessons learned after the program is completed.
The first year of the three-year project is completed and data from the first summer program has been collected. Data includes focus groups involving each target population and pre- and post- surveys administered before and after the intervention.. The paper will also share the impact of the program advisory board and its impact on the program strategy and training program. A preliminary analysis of the results shows that NMSTs and Engineering mentors benefitted substantially from the culturally responsive training. They cultivated meaningful relationships and learned a number of strategies to build connections with their mentees. The participants also reported the significance of culturally responsive elements that undergirded the teaching and application of the engineering design process. This finding has implications for how the engineering design process can be taught in ways that engage students both academically and culturally. The paper will present the full program structure, training program, and first year results. In addition, the authors will present opportunities for improvement and lessons learned to advance the literature on cultural responsiveness and engineering identity.
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