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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2013004350
pages 337-357

FEMALE STUDENTS' EXPERIENCES WITH PROJECT-BASED WORK IN INTRODUCTORY ENGINEERING CLASSES AT TWO- AND FOUR-YEAR INSTITUTIONS

Amy K. Swan
Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (CASTL-HE), Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904, USA

ABSTRACT

This study explores women's experiences with project-based learning within the context of introductory engineering courses at two community colleges and one four-year institution. The study was framed by Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological systems theory [Bronfenbrenner, U., The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1979]. Findings were based on analyses of data gathered through multiple qualitative methods: observations; individual interviews with female students; focus group interviews with project teams; and document collection. This study's findings showed that participants' project teams were a critically important microsystem within participants' ecological environments. Within this sometimes "chilly" microsystem, female students negotiated intrateam processes, which were in some cases affected by gender norms. Intrateam processes that influenced female students' project-based learning experiences included interpersonal dynamics; leadership; and division of labor. Study findings point toward ways that engineering educators might attend to the intrateam processes identified, and better accommodate the needs of all students in project-based introductory courses.


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