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Understanding and Predicting Persistence in First Year Engineering Students

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Based on James Marcia's theory, identity development in youth is the degree to which one has explored and committed to a vocation [1], [2]. During the path to an engineering identity, students will experience a crisis, when one's values and

Based on James Marcia's theory, identity development in youth is the degree to which one has explored and committed to a vocation [1], [2]. During the path to an engineering identity, students will experience a crisis, when one's values and choices are examined and reevaluated, and a commitment, when the outcome of the crisis leads the student to commit to becoming an engineer. During the crisis phase, students are offered a multitude of experiences to shape their values and choices to influence commitment to becoming an engineering student. Student's identities in engineering are fostered through mentoring from industry, alumni, and peer coaching [3], [4]; experiences that emphasize awareness of the importance of professional interactions [5]; and experiences that show creativity, collaboration, and communication as crucial components to engineering. Further strategies to increase students' persistence include support in their transition to becoming an engineering student, education about professional engineers and the workplace [6], and engagement in engineering activities beyond the classroom. Though these strategies are applied to all students, there are challenges students face in confronting their current identity and beliefs before they can understand their value to society and achieve personal satisfaction. To understand student's progression in developing their engineering identity, first year engineering students were surveyed at the beginning and end of their first semester. Students were asked to rate their level of agreement with 22 statements about their engineering experience. Data included 840 cases. Items with factor loading less than 0.6 suggesting no sufficient explanation were removed in successive factor analysis to identify the four factors. Factor analysis indicated that 60.69% of the total variance was explained by the successive factors. Survey questions were categorized into three factors: engineering identity as defined by sense of belonging and self-efficacy, doubts about becoming an engineer, and exploring engineering. Statements in exploring engineering indicated student awareness, interest and enjoyment within engineering. Students were asked to think about whether they spent time learning what engineers do and participating in engineering activities. Statements about doubts about engineering to engineering indicated whether students had formed opinions about their engineering experience and had understanding about their environment. Engineering identity required thought in belonging and self-efficacy. Belonging statements called for thought about one's opinion in the importance of being an engineer, the meaning of engineering, an attachment to engineering, and self-identification as an engineer. Statements about self-efficacy required students to contemplate their personal judgement of whether they would be able to succeed and their ability to become an engineer. Effort in engineering indicated student willingness to invest time and effort and their choices and effort in their engineering discipline.

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Date Created
2018-05