This research base paper examines students who are the first in their families to attend college. Our research seeks to understand the role students’ funds of knowledge makes in first-generation college students’ undergraduate experience. Funds of knowledge are the set of formal/informal knowledge and skills that students learn through family, friends, and communities outside of academic institutions. This paper reports funds of knowledge themes relevant to first-generation college students in engineering and the process of gathering validity evidence to support the funds of knowledge themes.

Using ethnographic and interview data, six themes emerged: connecting experiences, community networks, tinkering knowledge, perspective taking, reading people, and mediational skills. Pilot data collected at two institutions were used to run exploratory factor analysis to verify the underlying theoretical structures among the themes.

Results of the exploratory factor analysis found that almost all items reliably loaded onto their respective constructs. The funds of knowledge identified in this study are not an exhaustive account, nevertheless uncovering these hidden assets can support first-generation college students to see their experiences as equally valuable knowledge in engineering. We are currently in an ongoing process of collecting a second dataset to perform a confirmatory factor analysis, i.e., the next phase of the validation process for survey instrument development.

Granting Agencies

National Science Foundation


first-generation college students, funds of knowledge, exploratory factor analysis

Date of this Version


Custom Citation

Verdín, D., & Smith, J. M., & Lucena, J. C. (2019, June), Recognizing Engineering Students’ Funds of Knowledge: Creating and Validating Survey Measures Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33226