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A Multi-Method Analysis of Engineering Student Curiosity

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2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division (ENT) Technical Session 2: Assessing the Entrepreneurial Mindset, Curiosity, and Workplace Preparedness

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation Division (ENT)

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Paper Authors


Meagan Eleanor Ita Arvinas

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Dr. Meagan Ita is a Research Scientist at Arvinas working to develop disease modifying therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. Her career passion is to develop novel biotechnologies and therapeutics to better understand human physiology with the goal of equitably extending healthspan, ideally at the intersection of healthcare and STEM education. Meagan has experience as a Postdoctoral Scholar in Engineering Education from The Ohio State University (OSU), earned a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.S. and B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from OSU.

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Amanda Marie Singer The Ohio State University

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Amanda Singer is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She graduated in 2021 from Michigan Tech with a Bachelor's and Master's of Science in Environmental Engineering. Her current research interests include engineering identity formation, community college engineering education, and mixed methods research.

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Rachel Louis Kajfez The Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Rachel Louis Kajfez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Ohio State and earned her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her research interests focus on the intersection between motivation and identity, first-year engineering programs, mixed methods research, and innovative approaches to teaching. She is the principal investigator for the Research on Identity and Motivation in Engineering (RIME) Collaborative.

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Curiosity, an ability vital to the process of invention and innovation, has also been correlated with a variety of desirable outcomes in education and is recognized as a desirable characteristic in engineering students and practicing engineers. Thus, developing and integrating a curriculum that instills and fosters curiosity in engineering students is essential. To assess student development of curiosity, a direct and an indirect assessment for curiosity were integrated into the curriculum for a first-year engineering honors program at a large midwestern university. The Five-Dimensional Curiosity Scale (5DC), a 25-item instrument developed by Kashdan and colleagues, was implemented as the indirect assessment. The direct assessment for curiosity was developed by the research team and tasks students to brainstorm about a topic and then write 10 distinct questions about that topic. Both assessments were administered at two time points in the academic year. A subset of data of 54 students, randomized across course sections, was selected for analysis. For the indirect Likert-type survey data, means were computed for each of the five constructs per participant, and pre and post responses were compared using a paired t-test or Wilcoxon signed rank test based on data set normality. To evaluate the direct assessment data, the 10 questions generated by students were analyzed using a deductive coding approach which was guided by a codebook derived from the 5DC. Differences in the frequency of the question codes between pre and post implementations were tested using Pearson correlation tests. We found a significant increase (p<0.05) in student self-reported pre post scores for Social Curiosity and Thrill Seeking constructs over the first year. Despite those constructs increasing, students generated questions pertaining to Information Seeking and Stress Tolerance constructs most frequently in the direct pre and post assessment, with approximately 60% and 25% of questions coded into those categories, respectively. The frequency of codes was not different between the pre and post assessments. These findings suggest that further work is needed to understand discrepancies between how students perceive their curiosity personality and how they exercise that curiosity in an academic context. This paper explores the direct and indirect assessment data sets and discusses implications for our findings on pedagogical approaches to fostering curiosity in first-year engineering.

Ita, M. E., & Singer, A. M., & Kajfez, R. L. (2023, June), A Multi-Method Analysis of Engineering Student Curiosity Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42433

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