T9-D&BP1-3 - Towards Civility: Understanding and Confronting Harassing Behaviors through Mixed Research Approaches in Engineering Learning Settings

3. Research Work In Progress
Cijy Elizabeth Sunny1 , Teri K. Reed1, Teri J. Murphy1, Whitney Gaskins1
1 University of Cincinnati

This Research Work-in-Progress presents a platform to understand and confront the problem called sexual harassment that impedes the success of women and under-represented minorities in engineering.  The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) conceptualize sexual harassment (or harassing behaviors) as gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion.  The 2018 NASEM census study report highlights recent research indicating academia is second only to the military and early data shows engineering to be second only to medicine as a profession.  Sexual harassment against women of color, sexual and gender-minority people are under-researched; hence the current knowledge base presents a partial and often inadequate picture of harassing behaviors experienced by these minority groups. Additionally, as institutions of higher education become more aware of the extent of sexually harassing behaviors experienced by undergraduate students, the need for high-quality interventions especially in the context of engineering learning settings should be studied.

Building on the findings from the 2018 NASEM report, this mixed methods study is rooted in the theories of tokenism, gender stereotyping, and intersectionality.  This research expands understanding of the problem of sexual harassment by synthesizing the theories that are grounded in organizational and job structures, ambient work environments, and the need for multi-interventions.  The research employs a three-stage sequential explanatory mixed methods design to: 1) assess prevalence of harassing behaviors using an adapted ARC3 (Administrator Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative) survey called the Civility Audit 2020; 2) involving the stakeholders (faculty, staff, students, co-op sites and personnel) through a qualitative and participatory methodology of Group-Level-Assessment to collaboratively generate and interactively analyze data to refine and plan bystander interventions; and 3) evaluate the outcomes of these interventions through a phenomenological lens using pre and post-interviews and focus groups to understand the essence of the experiences with greater depth and construct a comprehensive narrative.  In addition to using the methodology of mixed methods research, harassing behaviors are studied in the context of two learning settings in engineering, namely class settings and experiential settings (e.g., co-op, undergraduate research, service learning, etc.).  A convenience sample of undergraduate students at a Midwestern University serves as the initial sample for the first stage and a nested sample from this initial sample is used for the subsequent stages.

An understanding of the problem of sexual harassment and prevalence is critical to selecting, designing, implementing, and studying interventions to tackle this menace for a sustainable future.  This research has important implications for engineering educators, engineering schools, students, and experiential learning sites as it uses students’ voices to refine and develop bystander interventions and training to target different types of harassing behaviors.  This study applies an intersection of mixed and validated approaches, as recommended in the NASEM report, to study this complex and wicked problem at a nanoscopic level and thus also contributes to the methodology of sexual harassment literature.

 Keywords—sexual harassment, intersectionality, group-level assessment