The EU faces an alarming deficit of engineers—in 2011 Germany fell 76,400 engineers short. To address this and diversify perspectives, the EU must attract and retain more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Findings of research I conducted as a Fulbright to Ireland in Engineering Education indicate Project-Based Learning (PBL) increases student engagement and many help address reasons women avoid STEM subjects.
Today, there is a gap in understanding why women chose engineering and how they experience PBL. Phenomenology provides an ideal framework for studying this. Two exploratory studies conducted during my Fulbright provide a foundation: 1) Designing the Identities of Engineers and 2) Using Learning Groups to Transform Engineering Education: A Phenomenological Study of Educators’ Experiences of Change.
I propose to extend this work with a Phenomenological Study of How Women Experience Engineering Education: Understanding How PBL Influences Their Decisions to Join or Leave Engineering. Participants will be women in Ireland, Portugal, and Poland from four segments of the engineering pipeline (high school, college, early career, and late career/CEOs), including those who have experienced PBL and others who have not.
I will investigate effects of PBL tools DIT and I designed (RoboSumo for college students and RoboSlam: Robot-Building Workshops for teens and facilitators/engineers). We will transfer knowledge with: 1) RoboSlam and 2) development of a new Master’s program to infuse cutting-edge research and pedagogy into engineering curricula worldwide. Both will be tested in 3 EU countries.
This project addresses leaks in Europe’s STEM pipeline that lead to shortfall—and lack of diversity—among European engineers. It will produce publications on gender and PBL, tailor phenomenology for use in engineering education research, infuse innovations and research into engineering education, and apply PBL to attract/retain diverse engineers.
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