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Board 13: Investigating the Formation of Engineers and the Future Professoriate: Linking Writing Approaches and Attitudes to Doctoral Socialization, Persistence, and Attrition

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Catherine G.P. Berdanier Pennsylvania State University, University Park Orcid 16x16

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Catherine G.P. Berdanier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from The University of South Dakota, her M.S. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Her research interests include graduate-level engineering education, including inter- and multidisciplinary graduate education, online engineering cognition and learning, and engineering communication.

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This poster will report on results to date of an ongoing NSF EEC Grant. The objective of this study is to investigate the linkage between engineering writing and disciplinary discourse with other mechanisms of engineering graduate socialization, such as identity formation, socialization, persistence, and desire to pursue academic careers. This study is designed as an embedded exploratory mixed methods study of current graduate engineering students and recent non-completers that seek to answer the following research questions: 1. How do graduate students at various stages in their PhD programs in engineering perceive the role of academic writing as it relates to academic socialization and success in future academic careers? 2. How are these perceptions different or similar for graduate students who are considering leaving or have left their PhD programs before graduating? 3. Can existing surveys of writing concepts, attitudes, and self-efficacies predict students’ risk for attrition?

To date, we have completed quantitative and qualitative data collection for current graduate students (with a total N=612 from the survey data, and N=40 participants for the qualitative interview, the results of which will be presented in this poster. While results show that graduate engineering writers don’t all necessarily write in the same way, the data indicate that graduate engineering students understand writing to be part of the knowledge-transforming process, and procrastination is the second-most common concept of writing. These descriptive data are useful in understanding, at a glance, what the main issues for many graduate-level engineering writers are—for example, procrastination is an issue less with writing, but with time management in general (though it may be augmented due to other issues such as tendency toward block or perfectionism.) Pearson correlations were calculated between each of the factors within the scales and across the demographic variables in order to understand the relationships between them.

This poster will also present correlations between writing attitudes and student career trajectory. There are a several positive and negative correlations between writing attitudes and career trajectory that are statistically significant. Of particular interest to the present study are the strong statistically significant correlations (p < 0.01) between writers who affiliate strongly with deep writing attributes such as Intuitive, Elaborative, and Knowledge transforming processes, and Productivity concepts of writing with all likelihood of pursuing most broad sectors of engineering careers. Conversely, statistically significantly negative correlations are shown between students who score highly in the weaker writing concepts and processes, such as Low Self-Efficacy, Procrastination, and Perfectionism with future academic careers. Students who strongly affiliated with the Elaborative writing approach significantly negatively correlated with intending to pursue non-R&D careers in industry. Students who strongly tended toward writer’s block had no significant correlations except with industry non-R&D careers, and no writing concepts or processes correlated strongly with a student’s intention to pursue engineering positions in government. Ongoing qualitative data analysis for current graduate students will also be highlighted in this poster to understand the ways in which graduate student writing may impact trajectory to and through graduate school and into a variety of careers.

Berdanier, C. G. (2019, June), Board 13: Investigating the Formation of Engineers and the Future Professoriate: Linking Writing Approaches and Attitudes to Doctoral Socialization, Persistence, and Attrition Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32230

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