June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.178.1 - 23.178.10
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.
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