The Association between Engineering Students' Perceptions of Classroom Climate and Fundamental Engineering Skills: A Comparison of Community College and University Students
Hankey, Maria Stack
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In this dissertation, the focus was on the classroom climate of engineering students in the context of either their community college or their four-year university. Previous research on the classroom climate for STEM majors suggests that women and minorities may experience a "chilly climate" and find the classroom unwelcoming; this negative climate may in turn have an impact on a student's success or persistence in attaining a degree. The purpose of this study was to examine engineering students' perceptions of their classroom climate and how these perceptions are related to fundamental skills in engineering. Data from a 2009 National Science Foundation sponsored project, Prototype to Production: Processes and Conditions for Preparing the Engineer of 2020 (P2P), which contains information from students in 31 four-year colleges and 15 pre-engineering community college programs, were examined. After establishing measures for classroom climate and fundamental skills related to engineering through an exploratory factor analysis, results indicated that university students had higher perceptions of their fundamental engineering skills as compared to community college students. Community college engineering students, on the other hand, perceived their classroom climates as warmer than university engineering students. In order to explore differences in student perceptions by individual characteristics and by institution, hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) was used. Results indicated that for both community college and university engineering students, a warmer perception of classroom climate was associated with a higher perception of fundamental engineering skills. For the community college data, there was significant but low variation between schools, suggesting that student level characteristics may explain more of the variation. At the individual level, the interaction terms for gender and race were significant, indicating that the association between gender and perceptions of fundamental engineering skills depends on race. For the university students, only gender was significant, with male students reporting higher perceptions of their fundamental engineering skills. Almost all of the engineering disciplines were significant, which led to an additional HLM analysis with engineering program as the highest nested unit. Results from this model indicated that the highest percentage of variation in fundamental skills in engineering was at the program level.
- Doctoral Dissertations