NSF INCLUDES DDLP Statewide Consortium: Supporting Underrepresented Populations in Precalculus by Organizational Redesign toward Engineering Diversity
Improving retention rates in postsecondary engineering degree programs is the single most effective approach for addressing the national shortage of skilled engineers. Both mathematics course placement and performance are strong graduation predictors in engineering, even after controlling for demographic characteristics. Underrepresented students (e.g., rural students, low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color) are disproportionately represented in cohorts that enter engineering programs not yet calculus-ready. Frequently, the time and cost of obtaining an engineering degree is increased, and the likelihood of obtaining the degree is also reduced. This educational problem is particularly acute for African American students who attended select high schools in South Carolina, with extremely high-poverty rates. As a result, the investigators proposed an NSF INCLUDES Launch Pilot project to develop a statewide consortium in South Carolina - comprising all of the public four-year institutions with ABET-approved engineering degree programs, all of the technical colleges, and 118 high schools with 70% or higher poverty rates, to pinpoint and address the barriers that prevent these students from being calculus ready in engineering.
This NSF INCLUDES Launch Pilot project will map completion/attrition pathways of students by collecting robust cross-sectional data to identify and understand the complex linkages between and behind critical decisions. Such data have not been available to this extent, especially focused on diverse populations. Further, by developing structural equation models (SEMs), the investigators will be able to build on extant research, contributing directly to understanding the relative impact of a range of latent variables on the development of engineering identity, particularly among African American, rural, low-income, and first-generation engineering students. Results of the pilot interventions are likely to contribute to the empirical and theoretical literature that focus on engineering persistence among underrepresented populations. Project plans also include developing a centralized database compatible to the Multiple Institution Database for Investigation of Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD) project to share institutional data with K-12 and postsecondary administrators, engineering educators, and education researchers with NSF INCLUDES projects and beyond.
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