My closest-colleague, Dr. Inês Direito from University College London’s Centre for Engineering Education, has been working long and hard on a diversity initiative. She spearheaded efforts on the European side to craft “A Call and Pledge for Action” and get it adopted and formally launched by both the European Society of Engineering Education (SEFI) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).
ASEE & SEFI Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Pledge for Action
As a member of a global engineering community, I pledge to celebrate diversity, create opportunities, and actively support inclusive environments, in which all my students, colleagues, and members of the wider society are welcomed, respected, and valued. I acknowledge that a path with no examination, reflection, and action perpetuates an inequitable status quo. I commit to work collaboratively with all engineering community members and stakeholders to disrupt systemic exclusion and to create a culture where all will thrive.
This statement was approved by the Board of Directors of the European Society for Engineering Education: SEFI on 27 April 2020 and the Board of Directors of the American Society for Engineering Education: ASEE on 23 March 2020.
Many people on both sides of the Atlantic were crucial to the development and adoption of this “ASEE & SEFI Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” but I saw first-hand the dedication, hard work, and perseverance of Dr. Direito from start to finish, as I had the desk next to her at UCL for two years and we still work together on various research projects.
Dr. Susan Walden led the effort on the US side and displayed great resilience as well. I hold Susan in even higher esteem now, having watched the process via Inês. You see, Inês rather recently crossed the threshold from Early Career Researcher (ERC) to Senior Researcher, having gained promotion at UCL last September. Working with a skilled, enthusiastic, kind, and mentoring expert like Susan was great for Inês and an inspiration to behold.
Thank goodness for those who mentor others and help our engineering education research (EER) community flourish!
Writing such a document and getting buy-in from the other co-authors, including several from TU Dublin where I teach engineering, is complex enough. But getting the statement endorsed at the highest levels of SEFI and ASEE is remarkable and requires passion for your cause as well as political fortitude.
I wasn’t directly involved, but I watched the process and lent a supportive ear and I am delighted with the results. I extend my own personal thanks to task force members Lesley Berhan, Sara Clavero, Yvonne Galligan, Anne-Marie Jolly, Eric Specking, and Linda Vanasupa and whose who made direction contributions via SEFI (Gabrielle Orbaek White, Bill Williams, Martin Vigild, Mike Murphy, and Yolande Berbers) and ASEE (Rebecca Bates, Jean Bossart, Karin Jeanne Jensen, Liz Litzler, Tasha Zepherin, Stephanie Farrell, Bevlee Watford, and Stephanie Adams). Inês says that Klara Ferdova from SEFI was an amazing support, as well! Thanks to all who contributed to the development and adoption of this document.
This blog post shares ideas from a breakout “coffee chat” at the May 14th 2020 Big EER Meet Up, hosted by UCL with sponsors including REEN and TU Dublin. Our breakout session asked: Can we make future conferences greener and more equitable by providing online participation options?
It may be of use to people planning conferences for engineering education, engineering education research (EER), and beyond.
Shannon Chance initiated this coffee chat due to her concern for reducing the environmental impacts of conference attendance. Being part of the Marie Curie network (MCAA-UK) had made her aware of the scholarly paper on “Evaluating features of scientific conferences: A call for improvements” by Sarabipour et al (2020). This paper formed the basis of discussion. Shannon feels particularly compelled to develop viable solutions as she is the Chair of the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) that coordinates the bi-annual Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES). REES 2021 is to be held in Perth, and REES 2023 is scheduled for Hubli, India. Although Shannon is passionate about bringing the global community of engineering education researchers together and helping build EER capacity, she’s concerned that so few can be involved in REES due to cost and distance. She recognizes economic inequality of access to the physical event as well as the environmental toll related to academic travel.
This coffee chat was intended to be informal. It was facilitated by:
Dr. Shannon Chance – Chair of REEN, from TU Dublin and UCL
Dr. Valquíria Villas-Boas – REEN Board Member, from the Universidade de Caxias do Sul
Dr. Inês Direito, from University College London
Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora from Universidad de La Laguna
The overall event was globally supported and attended. This graphic lists the co-sponsoring organizations:
The session abstract explained:
Through informal discussion, participants will share experiences of online conference participation, its benefits and drawbacks, and explore how non-pandemic EER conferences could adapt to include rich and rewarding participation for those who can’t physically attend. We will explore recommendations recently published by Sarabipour et al (2020) who believe “Many meetings could still be improved significantly in terms of diversity, inclusivity, promoting early career researcher (ECR) networking and career development, venue accessibility, and more importantly, reducing the meetings’ carbon footprint.” This non-reviewed paper examined “over 260 national and international academic meetings in various disciplines for features of inclusivity and sustainability” and its authors “propose solutions to make conferences more modern, effective, equitable and intellectually productive for the research community and environmentally sustainable for our planet.” With such enthusiastic participation in recent online EER seminars, could EER possible lead the way?
Several resources are available for attendees. Anyone with interest can access them:
A very diverse group attended this coffee chat. We briefly describing introduced ourselves as, for instance:
A teacher of engineers
I like to work in teams
Was on the organizing committee for a conference transitioned to virtual last month
I am planning/organizing a conference in pre-college engineering
I’m current president of the Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED) where I found out how passionate I’m about Engineering Education 🙂
I consider myself a citizen of the world. I have lived in 4 countries and 7 different cities, and my family has 3 different nationalities.
We started by asking participants to take a minute to type into the chat about an enjoyable experience you’ve had in EER virtual learning recently, or provide a short reflection about being a “virtual” or a “face-to-face” person.
Virtual conferences are great for being able to attend with less time & money commitment. However, we need better ways to meet people at virtual conferences.
I love teaching on a chalkboard! I miss being in the classroom with my students. I am enjoying the interactions that I have with students during virtual lectures, but it feels like the balance of control is much more strongly with me, and I have to remember to give students space to contribute the disruptions that are more natural in the classroom.
I loved this [online Big EER] conference!
Easy access to EER community across the world. I have loved attending session that are open ended questions about how we navigate online teaching and learning, and everyone can share what they have been doing.
I find that being a virtual participant is more environmentally friendly by avoiding air travel. it would also be easier to attend more events than I would in person.
Current time is forcing us to adapt quite rapidly to the virtual context, it is important to make the most out of this experience.
I prefer being a face to face person; I am more of a “face-to-face” person because I like to see people’s reactions and smiles.
I’ve enjoyed getting together with architects and engineers for informal chat.
I participated od EDUCON 2020 and I had a great experience participating in workshops.
I’ve had more productive and enjoyable small group meetings with my pastoral supervises since lockdown – better than when they are physically squashed together in my quite small office.
I enjoyed getting to know a larger group of people (and new topics) in EER that otherwise it would not be possible.
I enjoyed being able to meet persons from very different backgrounds and cultures.
Many of the most positive and engaging online experiences I have had, have been since lockdown.
It’s been nice to travel the world from the comfort of my house while enjoying engineering education research.
I’ve been very impressed with how smoothly it has run, and how easy to participate.
During this Corona crisis period I have had the opportunity to attend conferences, webinars that I would not have been able to attend in person in a normal period.
Last Dec the SEFi working group on ethics organized a two day workshop that integrated online participants in all sessions: online presentations from the team of Virginia Tech (Diana Bairaktarova & Tom Sealy), Q&As taking questions from online participants, mixed breakout tables with both in person and online participants. The workshop had 60% in person participants 40% online participants.
Easy access to EER community across the world. I have loved attending session that are open ended questions about how we navigate online teaching and learning and everyone can share what they have been doing.
This experience today has been great – lovely to feel connected to people and conversations that I would normally be far away from.
Also have been thankful for the opportunity to attend conferences/meetings that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to due to my reluctance to be away from home.
Yes, you can “attend” many more conferences in the same time and less expense.
Also much more awake for conference sessions (sometimes getting a decent night’s sleep can be difficult in hotel rooms).
I think though that it is harder to build the connection with people who you don’t already “know”.
There was a webinar by the folks who ran LAK 20 online on two weeks’ notice. The policy was to have speakers present at a time appropriate to their timezone and upload immediately afterwards so that people in other timezones could see the talk.
And somehow interacting with my normal face-to-face colleagues via online seems almost natural – the connectivity is there.
Science is a global endeavour and we as scientists have the responsibility to make conferences more affordable, environmentally sustainable, and accessible to researchers constrained by geographical location, economics, personal circumstances or visa restrictions.
Career development and networking, especially for early career researchers (ECRs)
Environmental impact, carbon footprint (Sarabipour et al, 2020)
Many can’t travel, for example:
Researchers from young labs and low- to middle-income countries
Junior principal investigators (Sarabipour et al, 2020)
There is inequitable access regarding:
Health and mobility
Career stage (Sarabipour et al, 2020)
Travel requires resources: time, physical exertion, and family management, as well as funding.
“The less wealthy subsidize the expenses of the speakers, who usually attend scientific meetings free of charge.”
Registration fees can be steep and “Large conferences are often hosted in expensive cities as there are many accommodation options for large crowds, while conferences in more affordable locations are typically smaller in size.” Food often costs more there, too!
“Women and researchers from racial and ethnic groups, who are under-represented in various fields, are the least likely to be offered opportunities to speak at meetings in their discipline”.
“The experience of presenting at meetings for early career researchers (ECRs) and minorities who attend has not improved appreciably”.
“Digitalconferencesanddiscussionforums can, in fact, serve to assist communication between early career and senior researchers since writing a comment or question in a forum can feel less intimidating than approaching an established scholar in person.” (Sarabipour et al, 2020)
Environmental Toll: CO2 emissions
“Global aviation as a country ranks among the top 10 emitters”
“Conference attendance represents 35% of a researcher’s footprint”
This financial impact will be exacerbated in the current economic climate.
That’s a great point @Shannon. We’re teaching Sustainable Development Goals, but attending conferences can have a huge negative impact.
A participant from the US queried:
The “environmental impact” from a single conference is miniscule.
Of course, this assumes that you believe that CO2 emissions are harmful …
We need a better way to “meet” people in online venues.
The last point gained support from other participants:
Agree – it’s difficult to do accidental networking/meeting in online conferences – tend to stick to talking to people you already know/recognise.
Absolutely. Many interesting conversations/networking happens in less structured settings – coffee breaks, etc. How can we ‘create’ these opportunities online?
Shannon shared some Recommendations from Sarabipour et al (2020) that could apply in EER:
Replace in-person national and international meetings with more ground-based travel to regional meetings
Hold small and large meetings fully online or connect regional conference hubs digitally by live-streaming the conference [possibility for REES 2021+EERN-UK/IE]
Make research results more accessible globally via virtual access [eg, REEN database] and pre-printing
Foster digital networking by investing in relevant, immersive and interactive experiences [do more of these]
At physical conferences:
Stop generating junk (paper, souvenirs, badges)
Organize well-planned networking activities
Include public outreach & environmental clean-up (Sarabipour et al, 2020)
Next we discussed a question posed by Val: Why and how would making EER conferences greener impact you as an EER researcher?
Possibility to attend conferences via online would be very helpful for me as a researcher from SA without lots of funds – I would love to attend REEN 2021 but I don’t see how I’ll afford it.
Better access to far away and more conferences.
It would allow me to attend more conferences, since I wouldn’t normally fly to more than one conference per year for environmental considerations (would prefer not to fly at all).
Overall it would make easier to attend conferences if they are virtual. But also, it is easier to make connections in person.
Positive impact: more opportunities to attend events and meet people that I wouldn’t otherwise; ‘feel good’ reducing carbon footprint. Negative impact: human interactions are more challenging online.
With online conferences might see more female researchers participating, especially mothers with young kids who might find it difficult going away for a longer period of time.
I have never been to a REEN conference due to child care considerations, but I would definitely engage online.
Online conferences are less disruptive to teaching schedules – you can conduct your teaching and dip in and out of sessions.
Sometimes it’s difficult to physically travel to a conference fitting it in around teaching commitments.
Is it easier now to justify virtual conferences and meetings? Now we need to do it due to the Covid.
But if we want to build networks we have to do that intentionally.
I would like for online events to have ‘online dinners’ ‘online coffee breakout rooms’ where people could chat by video in an informal manner or to continue the discussion following a talk.
I suspect online conferences would encourage me to take a “chance” on hearing talks from people/projects that I was not aware of before.
I think that having online events makes it possible to design smaller, more frequent gatherings rather than trying to do mega-events.
When I was in Australia for a year, they told me how much time it took to get anywhere!
I am certainly more interested in attending a one day event online than I would be to attend a weeklong online event.
Totally agree with [above comment]! ASEE, for example, can be overwhelming. The sessions you want to attend have limited places. The colleagues you want to reach/get in touch with are difficult to find in the crowd!
I think virtual conferences actually make the physical conference more productive – you can read someone’s research, interact with them online, and if there is traction, you can meet in a physical conference and this will be more productive as you already know each other.
Totally agree – mix of virtual & physical is ideal.
I had a glass of wine before talking to Eric Mazur 🙂
Next we discussed the question: How could online participation options work in EER?
Can do online collaborative workshops with colleagues at different institutions easily. Definitely easier to attend than in real life but would be my personal preferences to have a hybrid somehow – but unsure if I am at a conference if I would be interested in doing the online version of that….
Maybe maintain a certain topic coffee break every x weeks. This way we can meet people with the same topic interests. (Like group writing meetings.)
You have to be much more strategic in designing interactions – you just can’t have as many talks in a day, or such quick turnaround between talks, as you would in a physical conference. Large amounts of parallel sessions would be disastrous, I think. Today was a good model – multiple time zones, and everyone speaking was a keynote.
The same way works face to face.
Combination of keynote sessions, workshops, and less structured formal sessions. Other idea would be to provide the option to join ‘interest’ groups.
Would be nice if live streaming/recording of sessions would become common practice. Enabling online participation for in-person conferences. For conferences which are solely online based, including online informal sessions.
I went to REES in Bogota, 2017. It was a great experience. The sessions were very interactive. Very different from those conferences where you have 10 minutes to present your paper, nobody asks you a question and that is the end. I think that the way the sessions were run could be done virtually too.
Another random idea I would like to share: There are conference apps (Whova at https://whova.com/virtual-conference-platform/, Conference4Me) that have networking features (you can meet other attendees with similar interests). This could easily be extended to online conferences. Also, these apps could be extended to accommodate attending multiple conferences at one time, so you could make up a personal schedule of events from both conferences.
Haven’t been to REES either – distance was the reason.
I think we need to add ‘bring your own drink session’ to these online events!
Well… this event was, after all, called BEER 😉
I agree with you Ines. Also if there were options for people to set up their own private meet-ups within the conference software – just as we would do when we form small groups during tea breaks.
Actually the REES format forces you to engage. Perhaps this could be a feature that can be built into an online session.
It’s also good to share recordings later – many colleagues couldn’t join due to timezones.
If you have a gap between the session and discussion, you might lose people.
Based on the number of online attendants today, there is a real need for this type of events.
Shannon posed ideas of holding smaller, regional conferences in alignment to share resources and conversation virtually, for instance:
The winter meeting of EERN-UK & Ireland could be aligned with REES 2021 scheduled for December 5-8 in Perth.
REES 2021 could broadcast some presentations and virtual attendees (such as those gathered on another site, or in their own homes) could submit questions using, perhaps, Padlet as implemented successfully at REES 2019 in Cape Town.
Another alternative to Padlet is Jamboard.
Agreed!! I was thinking of Padlet yesterday!
@shannon, I agree totally
Shannon, its a good idea, I am thinking of two or more research groups in different places meeting, individually, and then sharing their discussions with others.
Shannon noted that we need to implement sliding scales for registration fee, or somehow recognize that people from lower-income countries can’t access many of our events physically. Comments on that included:
The conferences that still have big fees are those run by societies that are trying to support their ongoing expenses. I have seen major conferences where the fee is as low as $30.
I’m attending an audio conference coming up virtually but the fee is still $175. Not sure why.
Educon2020 had different fees for people from low income countries.
ASEE, for example, makes a lot of money at the annual conference to support their headquarters and staff. Despite the $500 registration fee, they are still taking a hit to their sustaining fund.
By audio, we noted that conferences that had to quickly shift online had made payments out, that would be lost.
That point about sunk costs is a good one. The conferences that have paid a lot of up-front fees are mostly this spring and summer. Moving into (northern) autumn, we should see some of the fees come down.
Speaking of broadening participation, a virtual conference is a great way to get your students into the academic community at an earlier stage in their education.
One participant said she was new to EER and, in attending this Big EER Meet Up, found this academic community very welcoming. She said she felt much more welcome that in her home/technical discipline. She asked what our experiences were.
Shannon described her transition from architecture (teaching in the States) to engineering education in Europe after she attended SEFI 2012 and experienced a very warm welcome.
@shannon, I agree with you. I am a physicist and EER community is much, much more receptive than the Physics community.
Agreed, also more receptive than Aerospace. Feels like a real community. Inclusive 🙂
The session lasted 1.25 hours, and it drew to a close, participants added:
Great discussions everyone – sorry I can’t stay much longer (it’s supper time in this household) – looking forward to ongoing discussion about moving online!
I need to leave now, this was a good conversation. Thank you to everyone for organising and participating.
I will also ditch… fake SA winters are hard work! Thanks Shannon, Inês and Carlos 🙂
What a great day, and final session. Take care everyone.
Bye Diana! Great work!
Bye Diana. It was great to see you. And what a fantastic presentation!
Thank you ladies! hope we can meet soon. SEFI was also moved online this year.
I know. Very sad about that.
Diana asked: Why is it so difficult to close this meeting? I enjoyed it too much! If you organize any events or online talks including ethics, drop me an email please so I can include them in the SEFI newsletter!
IEEE Transactions on Education table of contents for the special focus issue on enhancing socio-cultural diversity
The new special focus issue I spearheaded for IEEE Transactions on Education just arrived in my mailbox! It arrived alongside a number of other prestigious journals on engineering and higher education.
This issue is dedicated to helping increase social and cultural diversity in engineering fields relevant to IEEE, including electrical, electronics, and computer engineering. As a result of my work on this issue, I was appointed as an Associate Editor of the journal and I have a second special focus issue underway.
To give you a bit of information on it–the November 2018 issue on socio-cultural diversity–I’m sharing an early draft of our guest editorial. You’ll find the draft below, after the list of article titles. You can visit the journal’s homepage or follow the links I’ve provided to download individual articles. Our guest editorial statement is free, but many of the others will require you to purchase the article or log in via a university library website that pays for access. Please contact me if you need help accessing articles.
A favorite photo from my days at Hampton University, with architecture students Nataschu Brooks
Fostering diversity and supporting diverse students has always been a focus of mine. I’m proud to have been associated with Hampton University, a Historically Black University in southeast Virginia, and to have been appointed Full Professor there in 2014. I try to bring what I learned there into the work I do here in Europe every day.
I’m also proud to have done research to increase understanding of how diverse students experience engineering education. I did much of this work at Dublin Institute of Technology, and I’m extending the impact of that work today through my current appointment as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at University College London (UCL), by publishing articles and special focus issues.
UCL has a proud history of inclusivity, having admitted women and people from diverse races and religions long before most institutions did so. My amazing colleagues in UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE)–including Jan Peters, Emanuela Tilley, and John Mitchell–worked with the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK to produce a groundbreaking report titled “Designing Inclusion into Engineering Education.” Techniques they developed have far wider applicability than just engineering, so please download a copy.
Recent journals on engineering and higher education
Table of contents
List of editors and our guest editors’ statement
Guest editors’ statement
Guest editors’ statement
Description by guest editors
Universities and colleges struggle to find the best approaches for achieving diversity throughout their campus environments. Even after successfully recruiting diverse populations, challenges arise in providing appropriate support and developing engagement opportunities that help enable students’ success. Some students from minority populations may not have had schooling that was as well funded as their peers from the mainstream. They may arrive differently equipped, but not any less capable, than their peers. In this special focus issue, we asked: How do we support their efforts to succeed? How do we help faculty understand the challenges diverse students face? How can we affect change in the teaching methods they encounter?
This issue of the IEEE Transactions on Education (ToE) makes exciting contributions to the literature on teaching in fields including electrical and electronics engineering, computer engineering, and computer science. This issue represents an effort to positively influence engineering scholarship, engineering education, and engineering practice. It helps stake new territory for ToE with regard to format as well as the diversity of authors, topics, editors, and reviewers.
Regarding the presentation of content, this is ToE’s third issue to provide structured abstracts. This feature makes content more searchable and it also makes the questions guiding each study more explicit. The most noteworthy contributions and findings are identified clearly and succinctly, prior to the full text. These features help readers locate relevant content and more easily understand how the pieces fit together.
Even more importantly, this issue provides a platform for voices and perspectives from around the globe to explore facets of diversity relevant to IEEE. Although engineering education research (EER) on diversity has focused greatly on gender aspects, we aimed to explore many different aspects of diversity in this issue. All contributors provide concepts and techniques to foster equity and equality in engineering education.
The topics, authors, editors, and reviewers represent ever-widening diversity—geographically, socially, ethnically, racially, religiously, and otherwise. Our call for papers defined diversity broadly, in an effort to increase inclusion and equity in engineering classrooms and labs as well as in engineering publications. A primary intention has been to improve the participation rates of people from under-represented groups—particularly in computer science, electrical and electronic engineering, computer engineering, software engineering, and biomedical engineering—and to support their ongoing success in these fields.
The guest editors have lived and worked in multiple countries across Africa, Europe, and North America and were keen to involve diverse individuals throughout the publication process. We were acutely aware that many readers and authors of many US-based journals had lacked exposure to much of the work in EER being conducted outside the US. Citation analysis of 4321 publications across four prominent platforms—the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE), the European Journal of Engineering Education (EJEE), and conferences of both the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) and European Society of Engineering Education (SEFI)—had shown ASEE and JEE citations “are dominated by sources with US affiliations.” SEFI and EJEE reflected wider diversity in that “while US sources are frequently cited, European and other authors are also well represented (Williams, Wankat, & Neto, 2016, p. 190).” Thus, Williams et al demonstrated, “in citation terms, European EER is relatively global but US EER is not (p. 190).”
In response, the guest editors encouraged researchers active in the US to submit articles and they also worked to solicit manuscripts from around the world. They aimed to provide “complementary perspectives” as encouraged by Borrego and Bernhard (2013), whose study compared EER that originated in the US with EER from Northern and Central Europe. They found the latter tends to explore “authentic, complex problems, while U.S. approaches emphasize empirical evidence” (p. 14). They also found “disciplinary boundaries and legitimacy are more salient issues in the U.S., while the Northern and Central European Bildung philosophy integrates across disciplines toward development of the whole person” (p. 14). Informing this edition’s intent, Borrego and Bernhard asserted, “Understanding and valuing complementary perspectives is critical to growth and internationalization of EER” (p. 14).
Adopting a global perspective, this issue promotes research, advocacy, and action geared toward achieving equity. Authors have considered many facets of diversity, including race, ethnicity, economic status, religious affiliation, age, and multiple understandings of the term gender. Subsequent issues of IEEE ToE will extend this work by, for instance, featuring technologies developed to support learning in IEEE fields for people with physical disabilities. Supporting a range of approaches to diversity, this current issue features empirical research on engineering/STEM pedagogies, paying particular attention to their level of inclusivity for students and teachers from minority groups.
Contributing new understanding regarding socially and economically diverse learners who enter engineering via two-year colleges in the US, Simon Winberg and colleagues discovered a correlation between math performance in two-year colleges and persistence to graduation in the four-year degree. Such research can help educators to better advise students and recruit those likely to complete degrees. The authors mined data from institutional databases to analyze and compare the performance of transfer and non-transfer students. By calculating and comparing averages, frequencies of passes and failures, withdrawals and repeats, the authors identified factors associated with persistence-to-graduation in Bachelor of Science ECM programs. The study helps confirm prior research showing many minority students who transfer to four-year engineering programs demonstrate high levels of persistence, focus and commitment, resilience to overcome challenges, and they also had high grades at their two-year institution, cumulative and in mathematics. This study, by Simon Winberg, Christine Winberg, and Penelope Engel-Hills, is titled “Persistence, Resilience and Mathematics in Engineering Transfer Capital.”
Two articles identify gender bias evident in team projects in engineering classrooms, that tends to go undetected and/or unreported by students. First, in a small-scale study with clear relevance in engineering classrooms around the globe, Laura Hirshfield’s US-based analysis shows that when students self-report regarding team performance and team dynamics, they may fail to see and/or report differences that have to do with the way they interact and allocate tasks. Although individuals submitted team assessments and interviews describing effective collaboration and a lack of gender bias in allocating roles, self-reports did not match the author’s observations nor the data she collected via interviews. Dynamics and assignments reflected visible gender bias, the author reports, yet male and female students reported the same levels of confidence and said they were similarly satisfied with their teams. To achieve greater equity, the author urges readers to look deeper and consider forms of stereotyping and gender bias that influence students’ experiences. Laura Hirshfield’s article is titled “Equal But Not Equitable: Self-Reported Data Obscures Gendered Differences in Project Teams.”
Two of the papers in this issue focus on educators’ experiences. Reporting from India, Anika Gupta et al. have analyzed the ratings male and female students assign to their teachers as measures of the teaching quality. They identified statistically significant differences in the ratings given—differences that correspond to the teachers’ gender and socio-economic status. In addition to bias regarding socio-economic status, this research team also found same-gender and cross-gender biases that yielded statistically different scores for teaching. The team gathered over 100,000 complete surveys—comparing groups from (a) civil engineering, (b) computer science and engineering, (c) electrical engineering, (d) humanities and social sciences, and (e) mathematics. Similar to the study by Potvin et al., these results illustrate student perceptions of various majors. In this case, statistics showed that interaction between a student’s gender and socio-economic status and those characteristics of the teacher influenced the student’s evaluation of the teacher. As student evaluations are used to inform faculty promotion and retention decisions, it is reasonable to question the validity of the data they provide. The paper was submitted by Anika Gupta, Deepak Garg, and Parteek Kumar and is titled “Analysis of Students’ Ratings of Teaching Quality to Understand the Role of Gender and Socio-Economic Diversity in Higher Education.”
Kat Young and colleagues have assessed participation in audio engineering conferences, a field that remains strongly male-dominated. Their work provides a new tool for determining the gender of participants who do not report their own data, such as in cases where they are listed as authors in various publications and conference proceedings. The techniques presented in this paper consider that not all individuals identify in a binary way. As such, this manuscript contributes new knowledge related to LGTBQ+ and how to determine what gender an author would ascribe to their self in instances where they have not been asked to provide that data. The team analyzed four aspects of data from 20 conferences—looking at conference topic, presentation type, position in the author byline, and the number of authors involved. Data revealed a low representation of non-male authors at conferences on audio engineering as well as the significant variance in conference topic by gender, and the distinct lack of gender diversity across invited presentations. This paper is titled “The Impact of Gender on Conference Authorship in Audio Engineering: Analysis Using a New Data Collection Method” and it was submitted by Kat Young, Michael Lovedee-Turner, Jude Brereton, and Helena Daffern.
Prior research has shown that including diverse perspectives on STEM teams enables more robust and innovative designs (Hunt et al, 2018) and that cross-disciplinary teaming that can facilitate pooling of diverse perspectives is difficult to achieve in practice (Edmondson & Harvey, 2017). A challenge for engineering educators is to ensure the perspectives of diverse individuals we now recruit are fully heard—that all participants have the opportunity to have their contributions considered and valued. Many instructors have had little or no training on pedagogical approaches within STEM. Even well-intentioned instructors may not understand how team formation and management of teams can help reinforce peer teamwork, and they may not recognize that poorly managed and conducted can deplete the confidence of women and others outside the classroom’s mainstream. Instructors who are accustomed to assigning team projects may not be providing guidance and support and thus may ultimately throw students together, simply expecting them to be collaborative, equitable, and productive but not explaining how to achieve this. As a result, students may not perceive group work as a recipe for success, but rather an obstacle course suited to the fittest.
In this special issue of ToE, authors have presented insights generated through the study of student learning experiences. Some authors have introduced innovative methods to measure the impacts of new pedagogical approaches within institutions. Several have investigated pitfalls that could detract from the effectiveness and inclusiveness of teams. Others increased understanding of gender-identification procedures for researchers—this group also exposed perpetual underlying biases in the speaker-invitation process that all IEEE disciplines may benefit from assessing.
Diversity and inclusion are not a post-processing task tacked on in a course or mentioned in a lecture. A well-thought-out, integrated plan that places value on the different perspective of students from diverse backgrounds, genders and life-experiences. Educators are beginning to foster a sense of belonging by adopting techniques for “cohort building” among diverse groups of students. This can help bridge the gulf many students experience when they move from secondary school into higher education. Such techniques can help ensure diverse students’ expectations are met, so students do not find themselves isolated or alone.
The guest editors hope you enjoy this special issue of IEEE Transactions on Education and are able to incorporate some of the methods presented here—to help create a generation of future leaders and innovators. The editors encourage readers to review emerging calls for action in diversity recently published by The Power Electronics Industry Collaborative (PEIC), ASEE, and SEFI.
In this issue, editors channeled their efforts towards achieving fairness and holistic well being, and toward fostering a community of engineers who can address global challenges, act with vision and confidence, and develop effective and robust responses to engineering problems. When students are prepared with superior STEM skills and equipped with life-skills, they will be able to build their own interest-related cohorts and will be able to seek out the resources they need, without being afraid to ask for them. A more diverse group will be prepared to address global challenges.
—Shannon Chance, Laura Bottomley, Karen Panetta, and Bill Williams
Borrego, M., & Bernhard, J. (2011). The emergence of engineering education research as an internationally connected field of inquiry. Journal of Engineering Education, 100(1), 14-47.
Edmondson, A. C., & Harvey, J. F. (2017). Cross-boundary teaming for innovation: Integrating research on teams and knowledge in organizations. Human Resource Management Review.
Hunt, V., Prince, S., Dixon-Fyle, S., & Yee, L. (2018). Delivering through diversity. McKinsey & Company Report. Retrieved April, 3, 2018.
Williams, B., Wankat, P. C., & Neto, P. (2018). Not so global: a bibliometric look at engineering education research. European Journal of Engineering Education, 43(2), 190-200.