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A cross-sectional study of engineering students’ creative self-concepts: An exploration of creative self-efficacy, personal identity, and expectations

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Self-efficacy and Emotion: ERM Roundtable

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.32.1 - 26.32.15



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Paper Authors


Sarah E Zappe Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Sarah Zappe is Research Associate and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State. She holds a doctoral degree in educational psychology emphasizing applied measurement and testing. In her position, Sarah is responsible for developing instructional support programs for faculty, providing evaluation support for educational proposals and projects, and working with faculty to publish educational research. Her research interests primarily involve creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship education.

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Philip M. Reeves Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Mr. Reeves is a graduate student in the Educational Psychology program at Penn State.

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Irene B. Mena University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Irene B. Mena has a B.S. and M.S. in industrial engineering, and a Ph.D. in engineering education. Her research interests include first-year engineering and graduate student professional development.

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Thomas A. Litzinger Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Thomas A. Litzinger is Director of the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State. His work in engineering education involves curricular reform, teaching and learning innovations, assessment, and faculty development. Dr. Litzinger has more than 50 publications related to engineering education including lead authorship of an invited article in the 100th Anniversary issue of JEE and for an invited chapter on translation of research to practice for the first edition of the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research. He serves as an Associate Editor for Advances in Engineering Education and on the Advisory Board for the Journal of Engineering Education. He was selected as a Fellow of ASEE in 2008 and of ASME in 2012. He holds a B.S. in Nuclear Engineering from Penn State, an M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering from RPI, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton.

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A cross-sectional study of engineering students’ creative self- concepts: An exploration of creative self-efficacy, personal identity, and expectations In 2004, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) released a report of the Engineerof 2020 project, which described the aspirations and attributes of the future engineeringgraduates. The committee stated that graduates need to possess traits such as “strong analyticalskills, creativity, ingenuity, professionalism, and leadership” (p. 59)1. Given the nationalemphasis on creativity and innovation, the lack of research on creativity and the creative processwith engineering students is surprising. In a content analysis of articles from primary engineeringeducation sources from 2006 through 2011, the authors found just 16 articles that used the words“creative” or “creativity” in the title2. The purpose of this paper is to expand the research base on creativity by assessingengineering students’ creative self- concepts. A cross-sectional study of first-year and seniorengineering students was conducted to investigate three constructs that measure creative self-concept: creative self-efficacy, creative personal identity, and creative expectations. Genderdifferences in how creative self-concepts differ from first-year to senior year were also explored. First-year students who intended to major in engineering were asked to participate in thestudy. The students had just started their undergraduate studies approximately two weeks prior toreceiving an invitation to participate. Senior engineering students, two weeks away fromgraduation, were also invited to participate. Of the 2,596 first-year students who were invited tocomplete the survey, a total of 865 participated for a response rate of 33.3%. Of the 1,316 seniorswho were invited to participate, a total of 378 participated for a response rate of 28.7%. Theproportion of female students at each class level is similar with 199 female first-year students(23%) and 93 female seniors (24.6%). The students received three scales relating to creativity: the Creative Self-Efficacy Scale3,the Creativity Identify Scale4, and an adapted version of the Creative Expectations Scale5.Subscale scores were calculated for each student by adding the scores for each item, recodingnegatively worded items. The results show that female students have lower creative self-efficacy at both the firstand senior years [F(1,1079)=5.68, p=0.017] when compared to male students (Figure 1). First-year female students have a stronger creative identity than male students. However, senior malestudents have a stronger creative identity than senior female students (Figure 2). Senior malesand females feel that instructors have lower expectations regarding creative behaviors ascompared to first-year students [F(1,1074) =63.961, p<0.001] (Figure 3). The lower expectationof senior students suggests that engineering instructors should consider ways to engage upperlevel students in creative behaviors. Additional instructional implications of the findings and validity considerations for cross-sectional research studies will be discussed. Based on the results, future research should focuson how creative self-concept changes longitudinally as students progress through the engineeringcurriculum.1. National Academy of Engineering (2004). The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.2. Authors (2013).3. Tierney and Farmer (2002). Creative self-efficacy: Its potential antecedents and relationship to creative performance. Academy of Management Journal. 6, 137- 148.4. Jausi, K. S., Randel, A. E., & Dione, S. D. (2007). I am, I think I can, and I do. The role of personal identity, self-efficacy, and cross-application of experiences in creativity at work. Creativity Research Journal. 19(2-3), 247-258.5. Farmer, S. M., Tierney, P., & Kung-McIntyre, K. (2003). Employee creativity in Taiwan: An application of role identity theory. Academy of Management Journal. 46(5): 618-630.

Zappe, S. E., & Reeves, P. M., & Mena, I. B., & Litzinger, T. A. (2015, June), A cross-sectional study of engineering students’ creative self-concepts: An exploration of creative self-efficacy, personal identity, and expectations Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23373

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015