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Assessing Impact Of Outreach Activity On Motivation Of Undergraduate Engineering Students

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.268.1 - 12.268.9



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Paper Authors

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Deborah Switzer Clemson University

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Lisa Benson Clemson University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Assessing Impact of Outreach Activity on Motivation of Undergraduate Engineering Students


This study was conducted to investigate how participation in conducting pre-college outreach activities impacts the retention of freshman engineering students. A design project in a freshman engineering class engaged students in creating physical models and activities to demonstrate math, physics or chemistry concepts to high school students. The focus of this paper is on the survey that was developed and implemented to study the impact of this activity on the students’ motivation to remain in the engineering program.

VIE Theory

Retention of students in an academic program is fundamentally the issue of motivation to participate in the program. When a student loses his motivation in this situation, he will likely change majors or drop out. A program needs to be aware of the potential problems that could result in lowered motivation to remain in the program. A useful theoretical basis for identifying problem areas and determining effective interventions is VIE motivation theory. VIE theory1 conceptualizes motivation as the interaction of three elements: Valence, Instrumentality, and Expectancy. The motivation to perform a behavior (like participating in an engineering program) depends on the goals set by the person—those goals that will eventually be reached if the behavior is successfully performed. The first step in understanding motivation is to identify these goals. Then the motivation to perform the behavior can be analyzed through the three VIE elements. Valance (V) is the value we get from a behavior. Valance can come from the behavior itself (it is fun to do), or it can come from the value of the goals associated with the behavior. Valance is additive—the more goals (or outcomes) associated with the behavior, the more value added. The higher the valence, the greater the motivation will be. For example, a researcher may place a high value on writing a book, because, although it may not be an especially enjoyable pastime, one of the goals of writing the book, promotion, has high value. One way to increase the valance of writing the book is to make the behavior more fun (choosing a topic that is a personal passion, or joining a writing society) or to add more goals (personal rewards after each chapter, for example). Each additional, valued goal adds valance to the behavior, increasing motivation to perform the behavior. Instrumentality (I) is the perceived connection between the behavior and the goals. For motivation to exist, the person must believe that performing the behavior will result in progress toward achieving the goals. This is an element of motivation that is ignored by many motivation theories. Yet it is a necessary part of the motivation equation. For example, if the researcher writing the book finds out that the field is currently glutted with books, and that publishers are not interested in new books at this time, she will have low instrumentality—she will perceive the probability of publishing as very low, and therefore her motivation to write the book will be low. To increase her motivation, she will have to find a publisher who will commit to the book. If the

Switzer, D., & Benson, L. (2007, June), Assessing Impact Of Outreach Activity On Motivation Of Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2721

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