ECR Projects

Explore past and current fundamental STEM education research projects across the three research areas that NSF's EDU Core Research (ECR) program funds, as well as across ECR funding types. Other search filters draw from both NSF's data and the ECR Hub's hand coding of award abstracts.

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Broadening Participation in STEM Broadening Participation in STEM

The Effects of Social Capital and Cultural Models on the Retention and Degree Attainment of Women and Minority Engineering Undergraduates

Effective Years: 2014-2020

The purpose of this study is to broaden understanding about how social capital and cultural models of engineering success (CMES) contribute to the retention and degree attainment of women and minority engineering undergraduates, traditionally under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Social capital refers to the social connections of students and the resources available through those connections. CMES refer to beliefs about how to succeed in an engineering program (i.e. degree attainment.) The study builds from the premise that women and minority undergraduates who succeed in engineering programs are more likely to 1) enter with and acquire/develop various forms/levels of social capital and 2) resolve conflicts between their CMES and the culture espoused by the program.

The proposed four-year longitudinal study, which builds on a prior research project, is guided by social capital and cultural model theoretical frameworks. The study will employ a mixed methods approach, specifically a partially mixed concurrent dominant status design in which both quantitative (online surveys) and qualitative (face-to-face and video interviews) data are collected concurrently. The data will be gathered from engineering students at eleven (11) diverse collaborating institutions (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Florida International University, Florida State University, Mercer University, Michigan State University, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, and University of South Florida). The outcome variables are: 1) the decision of entering students at these 11 institutions to pursue undergraduate engineering degrees and 2) retention of these students to the fourth year of their engineering programs. The two-fold goal of the research is to: 1) identify the effects of social capital and CMES on the retention and degree attainment of women and students traditionally underrepresented in engineering and 2) examine the relationship between social capital and CMES. An innovative aspect of the study is the use of cognitive diagnostic assessment (an extension of item response theory) to measure CMES. The results from the research project will make theoretical contributions in engineering education and is likely to transform cultures in engineering departments and facilitate the design of interventions that would broaden the participation of women and minorities.