Asee peer logo

Adult Undergraduate Engineering Student Experience

Download Paper |

Collection

2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Understanding Our Students II

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

23

Page Numbers

25.136.1 - 25.136.23

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/20896

Download Count

42

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Shannon Ciston University of California, Berkeley

visit author page

Shannon Ciston is a lecturer of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She has experience teaching chemical, environmental, and multidisciplinary engineering fundamentals as well as technical communications. Ciston's research interests include affective and experiential aspects of student learning, and impacts of nanomaterials on aquatic biofilms.

visit author page

biography

Maria-Isabel Carnasciali University of New Haven Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/https://0000-0001-5887-0744

visit author page

Maria-Isabel Carnasciali is Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at the Tagliatela School of Engineering, University of New Haven, Conn. She obtained her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 2008. Her undergraduate degree is from MIT from the Mechanical Engineering Department, received in 2000.
Current engineering education research focuses on understanding the non-traditional student experience as well as assessing the impact of exposure to metacognition
ideas/skills. Other research interests involve validation of CFD models for aerospace applications as well as optimizing efficiency of thermal-fluid systems.

visit author page

author page

Viktoria Zelenak University of New Haven

author page

Michael J. Hollis U.S. Air Force Academy

Download Paper |

Abstract

Adult Undergraduate Engineering Student ExperienceEfforts to remain competitive internationally in engineering and technology require thatengineering departments train a diverse set of talented students. One aspect of student diversitythat is often overlooked is student age. Adult learners are an important source of futureengineering professionals, and it is critical that these students are supported through degreecompletion. Because relatively little research has focused on adults as a special populationamong engineering students, this study aims to elucidate adult engineering student experience.Qualitative interview data was chosen as the means to collect rich information about the livedexperience of adult engineering students, providing depth that would not be accessible throughquantitative data. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten undergraduate studentsaged 25 or older, focusing on their experience pursuing engineering bachelor’s degrees at asmall, private northeastern university. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed by applyinggrounded theory to identify major themes and connections. The four major themes identified inthe data are: motivations, barriers, strategies, and outcomes. Adult students have a wide varietyof motivations related to supporting themselves and their families, personal challenge andachievement, and intrinsic interest in or identification with engineering. Major barriers tocompleting their degree work include time and financial stresses; barriers which prevented themfrom undertaking engineering degree work earlier in their lives include family means andexpectations, and confidence in math and science. Strategies for overcoming obstacles aretailored to the barriers they experience, but commonly include sleep reduction and seekingacademic and financial assistance from multiple sources. These adult students cite positiveoutcomes including the development of professional skills including time management, conflictresolution, and trouble-shooting. In this paper, we will discuss the findings of our analysis, aswell as connections between our study and related work in expectancy-value theory and adultstudent inter-role conflict. Future work aims to expand data collection to multiple sites, and tocomplement it with quantitative survey data. By understanding the motivations and experiencesof adult engineering students, we aim to provide better service to this important part of thestudent body.

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: © 2012 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