PEERs Climate Survey: A Promising Practice for Comparing the Experiences of Diverse Groups of Students Within and Between Academic Departments

Date Updated

The Promoting Equity in Engineering Relationships (PEERs) project at the University of Washington (UW) aimed to improve the experiences of underrepresented undergraduates in the College of Engineering. PEERs integrated NSF-funded efforts to engage a cadre of students, professors, and staff to create positive change toward a more inclusive environment in the College of Engineering, particularly for women, racial/ethnic minorities, and individuals with disabilities.

As part of these efforts the PEERs project team sought to better understand the climate within the UW College of Engineering as compared with other campus units and to measure the change in climate in the College of Engineering during the project period. Climate surveys are typically used to measure change over time, to compare the climate within different departments, or to compare the experiences of students with diverse characteristics (e.g., how the climate compares between students who are female and those who have disabilities). While climate surveys are widely used, at the beginning of the PEERs project, none were suitable for comparing the experiences of students with disabilities to students without disabilities because they did not ask for disability status along with other demographics and did not address key disability issues.

Project staff created the PEERs Climate Survey, unique among such surveys in that it explicitly addresses disability-related issues. The Survey was administered in 2010 and 2013 to assess the impact of the PEERS program in addition to understanding of how the culture of the College of Engineering compares with other departments overall and for specific groups of students. The PEERs Climate Survey Instrument can be adapted for use at other colleges and universities. It can be used as a one-time activity in order to compare the campus climate for various groups and between different campus units. It can also be used to measure changes in climate for specific groups over time.

Individuals with disabilities are often ignored by practitioners exploring diversity issues. The PEERS Climate Survey is a promising practice for including disability-related along with other demographics when examining student experiences. For more information about PEERS, see PEERs: A Promising Practice for Including Underrepresented Groups in Engineering.

The PEERs program is made possible through a National Science Foundation grant (HRD-0833338). PEERs partners include: