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Action-State Orientation as An Impediment to Engineering Student Success

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

ERM: Let's Talk about Tests! (Tests Part 1)

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Chris Ferekides University of South Florida

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Chris S. Ferekides received the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of South Florida. He has been a faculty member in the Electrical Engineering Department since 1992. He is currently service as the department chair, and is the principal investigator of a NSF Funded RED Project that addresses the professional formation of electrical engineering students. His research is in the areas of electronic materials with a focus on photovoltaics.

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Chung Seop Jeong University of South Florida

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Gokhan MuMcu University of South Florida

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Ismail Uysal University of South Florida

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Paul Spector University of South Florida

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This research abstract describes a study concerned with impediments to engineering student success. Engineering student success is driven by a number of factors, not least of which is their strategies for completing their academic work. Those strategies include the avoidance of distractions, class attendance, and the scheduling of study sessions. Some students are able to set academic goals, devise strategies to achieve those goals, and implement the strategies. Others might set the same goals and have the same strategies but struggle to translate goals into effective actions that produce success. One psychological factor is the general behavior patterns students engage in that derails their planned activities described as action-state orientation. Action-state orientation is an individual difference in how well people can translate goals into activities. An action-oriented person is able to enact planned activities that result in goal attainment, such as studying in advance for an exam. State-orientation represents a break-down in the ability to make goal progress. This can occur in three ways: Hesitation is procrastination and having trouble starting something like writing a paper. Preoccupation is difficulty in getting back to work after a distraction. Volatility is stopping an activity due to boredom or lost interest. The purpose of this research was to determine if the action-state orientation of engineering students would relate to their studying behavior. We hypothesized that action-oriented students would engage more often in productive study behavior such as attending class, avoiding distractions, and studying regularly. We collected surveys from 292 electrical engineering (EE) students from three EE classes during fall 2021 semester. Included was a measure of action-state orientation (21 items) and a measure of study behaviors (21 items). Ninety-six percent of the students were upper class; 76% were male. Ethnicity breakdown was 44% White, 25% Latin, 7.7% Black, 12.9% Asian, 3.5% multiracial, and 7% other. Results showed that all three dimensions of action-state orientation had statistically significant correlations with the total score of all positive study behaviors; action-oriented students engaged in more productive academic activities. Hesitation (r = .42) was most strongly related followed by Volatility (r = .13) and Preoccupation (r = .16). This suggests that the biggest impediment to productive studying is procrastination, that is, not being able to settle down to work on academic tasks. Examining individual items of the study behavior scale indicated that action orientation was most linked to finishing studying before engaging in leisure activities, working on assignments in advance, planning when and what to study each day, and paying attention in class. Less important was avoiding distractions entirely, such as studying in a quiet place or avoiding interruptions. These results show a clear link between action-state orientation and study behaviors. A limitation is that we did not link these behaviors to academic outcomes, and it is not clear if it is possible to enhance student success by training them to be more action oriented, which is the next step in this research program.

Ferekides, C., & Jeong, C. S., & MuMcu, G., & Uysal, I., & Spector, P. (2022, August), Action-State Orientation as An Impediment to Engineering Student Success Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--40517

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