GSE/RES Assessing Women in Student Environments (AWISE) Moving Assessment of Women Studying Engineering into the Classroom

  • Marra, Rose M. (PI)
  • Pauley, Laura (CoPI)
  • Pangborn, Robert N. (CoPI)
  • Bogue, Barbara B. (CoPI)
  • Lissenden, Cliff C.J. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


University of Missouri Columbia is addressing the national goal of increasing the number of women studying engineering by examining the impact of classroom experiences on women engineering students, and the experiences and barriers experienced by women engineering students who begin study at a community college (CC). Assessing Women in Student Environments (AWISE) will enable comparative and cross institutional assessments of core engineering curricular experiences (e.g. team interactions, student to student interactions) and CC experiences by developing instruments that measure both male and female student experience. Research will be conducted at Penn State Universitys main campus in three departments and its satellite campuses (which act as CCs).

Intellectual Merit

Research questions include:

To what extent do the following occur, as reported by students: team projects, student to student interactions in non-formal teams or lab work, and student to faculty interactions? How do students participate in these activities or interactions in engineering classrooms and laboratories? How do students perceive these activities? For all above questions, are there differences between men and women, ethnic minority and majority students, CC students and main campus students, main campus students in different engineering departments, and students who began their degrees at a CC and those who began at the main campus?

AWISE will develop high quality tools for producing a national data set answering research questions on classroom instructional practices at institutions nationwide. This can ultimately can promote engineering curricular change and even provide insight into why the percentage of women studying engineering seems stalled at about 20% nationally. The results are likely to be valuable to a large portion of the engineering education community given that AWISE data will be collected at a large engineering school with a diverse student population. AWISE will determine through valid research the impact of ABET 2000 criteria on the use of teams, which are assumed to be beneficial to underrepresented students. In addition, the project will examine how CC students, who are a significant source of women studying engineering, experience the process of transferring to a four-year institution, what experiences are helping to prepare them to transfer successfully, and what experiences are impeding that process.

Broader Impact

AWISE will have broad impact in the following domains.

Assessment capacity building. The creation and dissemination of high quality classroom assessment tools will provide the basis for national-level assessment and comparisons.

Women & under-represented minorities in engineering. The findings can identify best practices for creating equitable classroom climates at 2 and 4-year institutions, and facilitate the success of women, minorities and CC transfer students.

Engineering faculty and administrators. AWISEs design and dissemination plans focus on faculty involvement. Through their participation in this type of survey, faculty can become aware of the need to seek high quality assessment as the basis for sound curricular changes; aware that some new pedagogical methods are not necessarily beneficial; and aware that there are special issues that arise for CC transfer students, particularly for women who begin their postsecondary engineering at CCs.

Effective start/end date7/1/0612/31/09


  • National Science Foundation: $442,269.00


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