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Attitudes Vs. Performance In The Engineering Classroom

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Pedagogical Best Practices

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.248.1 - 7.248.9

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Paper Authors

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Darrell Guillaume

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Crist Khachikian

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Session 1451

Attitudes vs. Performance in the Engineering Classroom

Crist S. Khachikian, Darrell W. Guillaume California State University Los Angeles


The paradigm subscribed to by most people is that if one believes that a goal can be achieved, success is more likely. This is especially true in the pursuit of educational goals 1. A new trend in introductory texts focusing on orienting students to higher education, including those used in engineering courses, is to place a high degree of emphasis on this point. For example the widely used text by Landis 1 is filled with phrases such as "you can do it," "believe in yourself," and "an A in each course should be the goal." If one believes and subscribes to this paradigm, then a constant emphasis on a positive attitude will effect change in student learning outcomes as manifested by their overall Grade Point Averages (GPAs). A few questions arise from this emphasis on motivating students toward positive attitudes. For example, one may ask the following questions:

1. Do introductory courses (e.g., Introduction to Engineering course taught at our university) that work within this positive-attitude paradigm truly support a positive outlook in students? 2. Is a positive attitude related to actual performance? 3. Does this positive attitude change during the duration of a course or the duration of a student’s academic career? 4. Does previous performance in school affect students’ attitudes and, in turn, their future grade?

The current study was undertaken to address the last three questions. A recent study by Petr 2 shows that a student’s performance on an exam is related to his or her confidence when answering each question on the exam. Another study reported in Angelo and Cross3 shows that by surveying the students’ self-confidence in a class and making them aware of the results can help build self-confidence and competence in the classroom, although the competence was not tied specifically to performance. This work examines the correlation between the student’s overall attitudes in a single class to his or her overall performance. A related study is looking at the effects of introductory courses on student outlook (question 1 above).

This study was performed to help elucidate the extent to which a student’s initial positive attitude contributes to his or her successful performance in the engineering classroom. Moreover, the influence of students' overall GPA on their attitudes and course performance is also inferred. The overall goal here is to address the last three questions posed above using a sample of Civil

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Guillaume, D., & Khachikian, C. (2002, June), Attitudes Vs. Performance In The Engineering Classroom Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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