Designing a Survey for Engineering Undergraduates Using Free Listing - An Anthropological Structured Technique

Chrystal Smith, Hesborn Wao, Julie Martin, George MacDonald, Reginald Lee, Gladis Kersaint
2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
This paper describes the use of free listing in engineering education research. Free listing is a cognitive anthropological structured technique often used to gather rich preliminary data to improve the validity of survey instruments and interview protocols that explore complex concepts such as cultural models. Cultural models are internalized cognitive schemas that individuals within a culture share to varying degrees and draw upon to form and organize their beliefs, meanings, and practices.
more » ... s, and practices. Anthropologists use free listing to systematically collect data on participants' knowledge and beliefs about specified cultural models as a means to insure that the constructs under investigation are clear and well-defined. We illustrate the use of the free listing in our study as a means of showing its potential use in engineering education research. In our National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded study, we used free listing to understand the cultural model of "success" in undergraduate engineering programs, as defined by our target population. The free listing was used to refine the survey instrument that we will use to answer the question, "What are the effects of social capital and cultural models of engineering success on the retention and degree attainment of women and minorities in engineering?" We present our approach to using free listing to construct items for instruments that measure cultural models of success and social capital among engineering undergraduates. Specifically, free listing allowed us to determine which areas of a cultural model should be examined further and identify items that should be included in our surveys and interview protocols. We also discuss the advantages and limitations of free listing for instrument development. The rich data obtained from free listing process can improve the design and validity of survey instruments and interview protocols. Specific examples of how we used free listing to refine the instruments to be used in our research study are described, along with implications and recommendations of how the technique can be adopted in other engineering education research. We propose that the free listing technique can be adapted by engineering education researchers to gather cultural model data about their study populations.
doi:10.18260/p.23814 fatcat:7q6zaxqc6rbkvpfipi4qeo27xi