A Sociocultural Analysis of Latino High School Students' Funds of Knowledge and Implications for Culturally Responsive Engineering Education

Joel Alejandro Mejia, Utah State University

The purpose of this study was to investigate the funds of knowledge of Latino and Latina high school adolescents, and how they used their funds of knowledge to solve engineering design problems in their communities. This study was based on the assumption that creating a bridge between different formal resources (e.g., engineering design processes) and informal resources (e.g., funds of knowledge) is an important step toward encouraging Latino and Latina high school adolescents to enter and remain in the field of engineering. The intent of this study was to generate a framework of funds of knowledge that teachers can draw from in order to create culturally responsive high school engineering instruction that connects adolescents’ out-of-school practices to the formal practices of engineering.

An ethnographic approach was used to investigate the funds of knowledge of fourteen Latino and Latina high school adolescents. The participants were selected from a rural community located in the Western United States. They were divided into four different groups and each group selected a problem in their community that was of interest to them. Each group met twice per month and every student was interviewed every month individually. For this study, data sources included participant responses to individual interviews, observations of group discussions, retrospective and concurrent protocols, and participant-generated products.

A constant comparative analysis showed that the participants possessed an understanding of societal, environmental, technical, and other engineering-related practices, dispositions, and habits of mind, which helped them to engage in engineering design in a holistic way. The study suggested that Latino and Latina adolescents, although profoundly underrepresented in engineering, bring a wealth of knowledge and experiences that are relevant to engineering design thinking and practice.