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A Comparative Analysis of Teacher and Student Perceptions of Sources of Motivation in Freshman Engineering Design Courses at Liberal Arts Universities

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Empathy and Human-centered Design 1

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Xi Wang P.E. University of Mount Union

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Xi Wang is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Mount Union. She received her Ph.D. and M.Eng both in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky and Auburn University. Her research interests include the application of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in construction management, Lean Construction, and engineering education.

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Minhao Dai Kennesaw State University

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Gabriella Cataloni University of Mount Union

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Liberal arts universities and colleges aim to provide students with an education in problem-solving skills, critical thinking ability, and communication tools. With more liberal arts institutes started to have engineering programs, it is important to understand and evaluate the impacts of engineering curriculum in liberal arts settings on students, faculty, and the programs. Thus, this manuscript examines an introductory engineering design course that aims to enhance the engineering design and engineering disciplines for first-year students in liberal arts universities. Specifically, we examined what learning objectives in this course motivated students. More importantly, the study explored whether these motivations aligned with teacher’s perceptions of motivation, and how these motivations varied based on student demographics. The course is designed as a highly interactive seminar-style course that explores all aspects of the engineering profession, including engineering disciplines, education, creativity and design process, and engineers’ professional and ethical responsibilities. Students here implement the engineering design process to develop prototypes that solve complex engineering problems, as well as presentations and intensive technical writing. We conducted comparative surveys of teachers and students at a medium-sized liberal arts university in the Midwestern U.S. The results showed that solving real-life problems and teamwork skills are the strongest motivators for students. These findings aligned with teachers’ perceptions of what motivated their students in this course. Furthermore, we found some interesting differences in some of the motivations based on gender, race, and student GPA. We hope our results inform more effective design in first-year engineering design courses in liberal arts universities and further improve student retention and graduation rates.

Wang, X., & Dai, M., & Cataloni, G. (2021, July), A Comparative Analysis of Teacher and Student Perceptions of Sources of Motivation in Freshman Engineering Design Courses at Liberal Arts Universities Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36565

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