Social capital in engineering education Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/rr1721414

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  • A theoretical argument is presented to suggest that engineering curriculum be designed to develop social capital. Additionally, the value of social capital in the retention of students in the College of Engineering, and the development, role, and value of social capital in an electrical engineering laboratory is evaluated. Data collected includes participant observations, informal and formal student interviews, and a researcher-designed survey. Social capital consists of interaction among individuals (networks), social rules that encourage interactions such as trust and reciprocity (norms), and the value of these networks and norms to the individual and the group. A large body of evidence suggests that social capital is valuable in terms of retention and multiple measures of academic achievement. The importance of social capital in retention was verified by students that have left engineering and those that remain, in terms of interactions with peers, teaching assistants, and engineering faculty; and a lack of sense of community in freshman engineering courses. Students that have left engineering differed in their perceptions of social capital from those that remain in their frustrations with teaching methods that encourage little discussion or opportunities to ask questions about assumptions or approaches. The open-ended nature of laboratory assignments, extensive required troubleshooting, and lack of specific directions from the teaching assistants were found to encourage the development of social capital in the laboratory setting. Degree centrality, a network measure of social capital as the number of ties an individual has within a social network, was found to be positively correlated with laboratory grade. Student perceptions of the importance of interactions with other students on success in the laboratory setting has a negative model effect on academic achievement in the laboratory. In contrast, student perceptions of the quality of interactions with teaching assistants has a positive effect on measures of academic achievement. The results suggest that social capital is more important to some students than others in terms of retention and academic achievement. Recommendations are made to identify students requiring social capital to be successful, and to provide opportunities for these students to develop social capital.
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