Introduction: The number of bachelor’s degrees earned in engineering by women and minorities does not reflect their presence in the US population. This lack of diversity impacts the relevance of engineered solutions to our diverse populations. Thus, there is a need to increase diversity in the engineering field. Engaging underrepresented students in engineering early in their educational careers can transition to a diversity increase in the engineering field.
Tailoring engineering content to students' interests is a potential link to engaging underrepresented students in engineering. Previous research was successful in engaging students with diverse interests by combining arts and storytelling with robotics. Similar to this technique, using student-specific interests may engage students in engineering. The purpose of this study is to investigate student engagement in bioengineering between generic and interest-tailored lectures.
Methods: Students entering the 10th grade who are underrepresented in the engineering field were recruited to participate in a 5-week summer program. Students participated in bioengineering workshops for two hours a day. These workshops included a lecture and hands-on activity. The first three weeks of the program, the students received generic lectures on bioengineering content. The fourth week of the program, the students received interest-tailored lectures on bioengineering content. The students completed engagement surveys between the generic lecture and interest-tailored lecture weeks. Response data from 30 students in the 2017 was assessed.
Prior to the fourth week (interest-tailored lectures), students completed interest forms. Specifically, students were asked to list careers, sports, athletes, celebrities and hobbies that interested them. At least two interests of each student were embedded into the interest-tailored lectures.
Results: Interest-tailored lectures increased student engagement during lecture.
Discussion: Interest-tailored lectures increased student engagement in lecture but had a smaller effect on enjoyment in hands-on activities. Enjoyment in hands-on activities may have not been significantly increased because these activities were not tailored to student interests. This preliminary study suggests that student engagement can be increased by tailoring the delivery of engineering content to student interests. This may be a useful technique in facilitating the growth of diversity in the engineering field.
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