PathTech LIFE Constructs a National Survey of Engineering Technology Students through Regional and Statewide Testing

Back in 2013, FLATE highlighted a new partnership with PathTech, a regional research initiative
aimed at analyzing high school and community college students enrolled in engineering technology degrees and reasoning(s) behind their chosen field of study. Successful Academic and Empowerment Pathways in Advanced Technologies, or PathTech, is part of the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program committed to support/fund community college programs that boost technician education across the nation. The partnership between FLATE and PathTech has flourished over the years, and has culminated in many joint research efforts, one of which has been the “Constructing a National Survey of Engineering Technology Students through Regional and Statewide Testing.”

The goal of this research project is to develop a national survey of LIFE (learning, interests, family, and employment) factors faced by students completing coursework, certification, and AS/AAS degrees in advanced technologies at community colleges. The purpose was to determine how student pathways, career goals, and school-work-life balance influence program recruitment and retention. Because a large majority of participants are expected to be adults with numerous and complex life challenges (i.e., family, personal, school, and work), an investigation into students’ live experiences was necessary to inform institutional efforts to support their success.  

Outlined is a summary of the research findings: Year 1 Pilot Survey findings (N = 94)
Characteristics:
  • 40% were employed part-time (less than 35 hours)
  • 34% enrolled in high school CTE courses
  • 78% were enrolled in school full-time
  • Average GPA is 3.5
  • 89% of students were working toward an associates’ degree
  • 21% were working toward a certificate
  • 71% planned to earn a baccalaureate degree in their future
  • 16% male, 71% White, 12% Hispanic/Latino, 9% African American/Black, 7% Asian, 1% Middle Eastern (comparable to national surveys) 
Enrollment reasons based on PRiSM Decision Model for Adult Enrollment (scale of 1-4):

  • Pathway to a better life: 3.20 (e.g. “I want to advance in my current job.”) 
  • Reflective learner (Inclination): 2.70 (e.g. “I have always liked to build and fix things with my hands.”) Reflective learner (Academic success): 3.27 (e.g. “I have done well in school before.”) 
  • Synchronizing learning, earning, and living: 2.24 (e.g. “I had a decrease in family challenges.”) 
  • Match with an academic life (Institutional support): 2.60 (e.g. “The support from administrators.”) 
  • Match with an academic life (Program fit): 3.12 (e.g. “The program's ability to accommodate my work schedule.”)

PathTech is currently preparing a revised survey scheduled to be distributed to at least 35
colleges around the country at the end of September. For information on PathTech visit http://sociology.usf.edu/pathtech, or contact Will Tyson, P.I. & Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of South Florida at wtyson@usf.edu. For information on FLATE’s K-14 STEM based curriculum & Professional development programs visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Executive Director of FLATE, Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org