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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.905 CiteScore™: 1.65

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

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2017018814
pages 303-321

FEMALE UNDERGRADUATE ENGINEERING STUDENTS' PERSPECTIVES ON LABORATORY EXPERIENCES: THE COMPLEXITY OF SOCIAL, ROLE, AND SELF IDENTITIES

Diane Silva Pimentel
Department of Education, Brown University, Barus Hall, Room 116, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, P.O. Box 1938, Providence, RI 02912

ABSTRACT

Laboratory experiences in engineering courses provide a context for learning concepts upon which future study and professional knowledge is based. Some research studies suggest that females may not fully engage in engineering laboratory experiences due to negative interactions with male students who are privileged in this context; others suggest that females voluntarily assume more organizational roles. These explanations fail to capture the diversity and complexity of how female undergraduate engineering students approach their experiences in laboratory groups. In the laboratory group context, various identities can be attributed to each individual group member related to gender, professional, academic, and laboratory group identities. This phenomenographic study explored female perspectives about their laboratory experiences to capture the diversity of approaches that female undergraduates take when participating in this setting and their relation to social, role, and self-identities. The interview responses of 29 undergraduate engineering majors were analyzed to identify themes. While some of the participants described challenges they experienced related to gendered interactions, the majority of female students described their experiences as being the result of choices based on personal or practical reasons that favored their academic and laboratory group identity. Although there is still progress to be made in providing gender-equal laboratory experiences for female undergraduates, choices that female undergraduates are making themselves play a significant role in their experience.


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