Investigating the Fit Between Students’ Personal Interests and Their Perceptions of Engineeringin a National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Pre-college Summer Workshop (Fundamental Research)
Concern over the underrepresentation of women and certain minority populations in engineering has been a concern for the last few decades. Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private companies have invested significant money and resources to address this concern (Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE), 2017; Gibbin & Davis, 2002); however, the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities participating in engineering remains dismal (National Science Foundation & National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2017). Much of this money has been invested in pre-college engineering education programs aimed at introducing students to engineering with the goal of improving their interests, attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, perceptions, etc. of engineering. Research and evaluation efforts connected to these interventions have shown promising results, yet matriculation into engineering undergraduate programs continues to lag. The psychology of interests provides a useful distinction between situational interests and personal interests (Krapp, Hidi, & Renninger, 1992). Situational interests relate to the interestingness of the social or nonsocial environment that evokes engagement for an individual. Personal interests relate to one’s personal characteristics that influence their choices to engage in a particular social or nonsocial environment. Personal interests are more likely to predict prolonged and persistent engagement (Renninger, Hidi, & Krapp, 1992), while situational interests may be fleeting given the temporary nature of certain situations. Our hypothesis is that pre-college engineering outreach interventions measuring change in students’ engineering interests may be primarily measuring their change in situational interests. The engineering intervention may have been fun and engaging, at least as compared to the alternative (e.g., silent reading time, mathematics worksheets, etc.). However, these engineering interventions may not be sufficiently appealing to students’ personal interests and resulting in a sustained, persistent pursuit of engineering. This paper presents pilot results from administering the Fit of Personal Interests and Perceptions of Engineering Survey (F-PIPES) across 16 National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) workshop sites as part of a larger project. The pilot included a survey of the 3rd-5th grade students’ personal interests as mapped to the six dimensions of interests in Holland’s Career Theory (1997)—realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. The students then took a survey administered at the end of the 3-week engineering workshop measuring their perceptions of engineering as it maps to those same six dimensions. This framework was applied in a previous interview study of students participating in engineering activities revealing that students’ personal interests were more concentrated toward the social dimensions, and that after participating in broad, holistic engineering activities the students perceived engineering as a more socially-related endeavor (M. M. Hynes, Joslyn, Hira, Holly, & Jubelt, 2016). This provided the impetus to develop the survey instrument.
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