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An Analysis of Factors Impacting Design Self-Efficacy of Senior Design Students

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division: Design Mental Frameworks

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Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Joanna Tsenn Texas A&M University

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Joanna Tsenn is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. She earned her B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. She coordinates the mechanical engineering senior capstone design projects and teaches senior design lectures and studios. Her research interests include engineering education and engineering design methodology.

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Heather S. Lewis Texas A&M University


Astrid Layton Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Astrid Layton is an assistant professor at Texas A&M University in the Mechanical Engineering department and received her Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. She is interested in bio-inspired system design problems and is currently working at the intersection of ecology and engineering for the design of complex human networks and systems.

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In many engineering senior design programs, students are taught an engineering design process that they apply to a real-world, engineering design problem. This study examined how different factors from that experience impact a student’s design self-efficacy, or their belief in their own ability to complete engineering design tasks. Self-efficacy has been shown to influence a person’s actions, where those with higher self-efficacy will challenge themselves with higher goals and increased persistence and perseverance after experiencing setbacks. The increased effort, perseverance, and persistence results in an increased likelihood that the person will successfully achieve their goal.

The mechanical engineering students surveyed here complete a two-semester senior design program, working in teams to complete an open-ended design project. Each project is different, resulting in a different senior design experience; however, the goal of the program is to graduate mechanical engineers with high design self-efficacy. This study collected 491 student exit survey responses over the course of five semesters to investigate the impact of student project experience on four design self-efficacy self-concepts (confidence, motivation, success, and anxiety). Seven factors were used to determine differences between student experiences: gender, project sponsor type, project validation method used, average weekly effort expended outside of class, project satisfaction, project sponsor satisfaction, and sponsor guidance provided. The analysis found that student effort and overall project satisfaction were related to the design self-efficacy self-concept scores, although gender, validation method, and amount of sponsor guidance were not. The results suggest that the type of project given to the students has less impact on self-efficacy than how the students choose to work with it. The study’s outcomes will be used to direct future senior design program management and guide further research towards improving student outcomes.

Tsenn, J., & Lewis, H. S., & Layton, A. (2019, June), An Analysis of Factors Impacting Design Self-Efficacy of Senior Design Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32055

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