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A Comparison of Adult Learning Characteristics between First-year and Senior Capstone Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Continuing Professional Development Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.33.1 - 24.33.18



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Paper Authors

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James J. Pembridge Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univ., Daytona Beach

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A Comparison of Adult Learning Characteristics between First-year and Senior Capstone StudentsThe ability to teach engineers who are capable of working effectively in a field or disciplinerelies on an education that is situated in a realistic and comparable environment commonly seenin Project-Based Learning (PBL) courses. A common example of these types of learningenvironments is representative in design courses, both at the first-year and senior levels. Thesetypes of courses require students to exhibit a high level of motivation and advanced cognitivedevelopment, representative of an adult learner, in order to successful meet the requirements ofthe course.Studies have acknowledged that in order to develop critical thinkers and capable problemsolvers, teachers must understand the needs of today’s engineering student and design instructionto meet those needs. The development of students in undergraduate curriculum varies widely asundergraduates have been identified as being in a transitional phase of life between children andadults. This development varies widely as an increasing number of non-traditional students enteracademia through delayed college enrollment, second career adults, and military undergraduates.This study explores student motivations and intellectual development by addressing thefollowing research questions: • How do the andragogical characteristics of students in first-year design courses compare to those in senior design? • What is the relationship between andragogical characteristics and design learning?These questions will be answered through a survey of student andragogical characteristics. Thestudent survey is a composite of several pre-developed and validated instruments associated withtheir corresponding theoretical framework. The paper describes the development of the pilotinstrument to assess the andragogical characteristics based on four theoretical frameworksinferred from Knowles’ assumptions: self-directed learning, expectancy-value theory, emergingadulthood, and epistemological beliefs. The frameworks establish a theoretical basis and offerinsight for the collection of data in order to answer the previously stated research questions.Analyses have include a principle axis factoring to explore the underlying factor structure ofandragogical constructs, a regression to identify the key andragogical constructs associated withdesign learning, and statistical comparison of first-year and senior students.Findings have identified five major factors that support the use of the theoretical frameworks tooperationalize andragogy, while noting discrepancies among several sub-constructs. While thedifferences between first-year and senior students have been primarily associated withdevelopmental areas associated with emerging adulthood and epistemological beliefs, thesedifferences can greatly impact the way design educators mentor their students and coach themthrough teaming issues, especially for non-traditional students.

Pembridge, J. J. (2014, June), A Comparison of Adult Learning Characteristics between First-year and Senior Capstone Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19925

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