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An Instrument for Assessing Upper-Division Engineering Students’ Efficacy Beliefs about Mathematics

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Motivation and Self-Efficacy

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.178.1 - 23.178.10

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Paper Authors


Robert Melendy Ph.D. George Fox University

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Dr. Robert Melendy received the B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Oregon State University in 1992. He completed two separate M.S. degrees, first in 1994 (in Mechanical Engineering – with a research concentration in Continuum & Experimental Mechanics) and then in 1998 (in Electrical Engineering – with a research concentration in Nonlinear & Adaptive Control Systems), both also from Oregon State University.
During this time span he concurrently worked as an Engineer and Research Intern at Burelbach Industries, Hewlett-Packard Corporation, and Mitsubishi Silicon America. From 1997 to 1998 he worked as a full-time Instructor of Electronics Engineering Technology at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, OR. From 1998 to 2006 he worked as a full-time Instructor at Heald Institute of Technology in Portland, OR where he taught classes in Electronics Engineering Technology, General Physics and Mathematics.
He went on to join the faculty at George Fox University in 2006 where he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering.
In 2008 he received the Ph.D. degree in Applied Mathematics and Mathematics Education Research from Oregon State University. His research interests involve the characterization of engineering students’ mathematical thinking practices and how students respond to ambiguities and uncertainty in mathematically modeling engineering phenomena.
Dr. Melendy is a member of the Pi Chapter of Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) – The Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society, a senior member in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), and a member of Sigma Xi – The Scientific Research Society.
He serves as George Fox University’s representative to the Oregon NASA Space Grant Consortium.

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An Instrument for Assessing Upper-Division Engineering Students’ Efficacy Beliefs about Mathematics The factor validity of a pilot instrument developed to assess upper-division engineering students’self-efficacy beliefs about their lower-division mathematics was established. The instrument was aimedat identifying how junior and senior (upper-division) engineering students relate their lower-divisionmathematics knowledge to the solution of upper-division engineering problems. The research literature reports on the influence of students’ beliefs about knowledge on theirproblem-solving skills. A substantial portion of this research is concentrated in mathematics and othersciences (e.g., physics). There are fewer studies that report on students’ beliefs about their engineeringcourse work and in particular, students’ beliefs about lower-division mathematics as it applies to theirupper-division course work. The particular beliefs that were focused on in this research were students’ self-efficacies (SEbeliefs). The conceptual framework is built on Bandura’s (1997) idea that “one’s judgment of theirabilities to organize and execute given types of performances” is perceived as that individual’s self-efficacy, and that self-efficacy beliefs depend on the situation relative to the task to be performed.Imbedded in this framework is Ormrod’s (2006) notion that one’s sense of self-efficacy influences howone approaches challenges and goals. The notion of self-efficacy has been shown to relate to anotherbehavior: outcome expectancy (OE beliefs) – one’s judgment of how well they will be able to performin given situations and the likely consequence that their performance will produce (Bandura 1997). Informed by Bandura and Ormrod a question is: “when engineering juniors or seniors areconfronted with an upper-division problem, do they believe that their lower-division mathematical skillsare central in enabling them to solve the problem? Furthermore, do they believe that they are adept intheir use of the mathematics to succeed in solving the problem?” The guiding hypothesis is that thosestudents who believe that their ability to solve upper-division problems is: (a) influenced by theireffective use of lower-division mathematics (OE beliefs); (b) who likewise have confidence in their ownmathematical abilities (SE beliefs), should be more skilled at setting-up and solving core, upper-divisionengineering problems. This is in comparison to those students’ having lower expectations concerningtheir ability to apply their core mathematics to such problems. The pilot instrument was used to predict a priori the hypothesis. The instrument was subjected toa confirmatory factor analysis using the structural modeling feature in SAS, v.9. Reliability analysisproduced a Cronbach’s  coefficient of 0.861 for the mathematics SE beliefs scale and a Cronbach’s coefficient of 0.797 for the OE scale (n = 35, currently). The current standard is that 0.7    0.8 isacceptable and that 0.8    0.9 is good. Confirmatory factor analysis indicates that these two scalesare independent, thus adding to the construct validity of this instrument. The paper concludes with adiscussion concerning how students’ SE and OE beliefs are postulated to affect students’ problemsolving skills of upper-division electrical and mechanical engineering problems.

Melendy, R. (2013, June), An Instrument for Assessing Upper-Division Engineering Students’ Efficacy Beliefs about Mathematics Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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