Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Xu, Jianzhong

Committee Member

Elmore, Billy B.

Committee Member

Brocato, D. Kay

Committee Member

Franz, Dana P.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Curriculum and Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education


With the growing concern over the reduction of university students pursuing degrees in STEM fields, there are a number of entities sponsoring and implementing programs for young people in order to promote interest in and self-efficacy for these fields. Summer Engineering Academies (SEAs) are implemented in a variety of settings by stakeholders with a single purpose: to expose young people to the fields and work of engineers in the hope of recruiting them. This study is seeks to identify whether any positive changes to the self-efficacy of the participants occurs through the curricula of the program. This self-efficacy can be the driving force for many young people as they feel that they are both capable of success in addition to the desire to pursue a career in the field. The SEAs in this study serve a variety of age groups and specialized demographic sub-groups; of greatest interest is the possible impact of these programs on traditionally under-represented groups. Each program hosts a specific demographic sub-group but they all share specific pedagogical practices in order to identify which may emerge as best practices in affecting change on the self-efficacy of the participants toward engineering. A secondary purpose was to identify which, if any, practices had a positive impact on the participants’ self-efficacy and presume those as best practices across demographics. The programs were found to have a positive effect on the participants as identified through focus groups, journal entries, and personal interviews with the students. There were no identifiable differences in the impact of the practices between the subgroups. Each subgroup had gains in self-efficacy from each of the instructional practices which may allow for the distinction of best practice to be used in their description. These practices include: the use mentors or role models in face to face experiences; hands-on learning with tangible results; and recognizable real-world applications. Each practice yielded a positive result, but none of them appeared to be more successful with any group than the others. This allows them each to be considered a productive instructional strategy for the increase of self-efficacy of participants toward engineering.



Summer Camps||Self-efficacy||K-12 Engineering