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Board # 135 : “I AM an engineer!” Three Scales used in Measuring Identification of Engineering as First-Year Students

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Kristi J. Shryock Texas A&M University

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Dr. Kristi J. Shryock is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. She received her BS, MS, and PhD from the college of engineering at Texas A&M. Kristi works to improve the undergraduate engineering experience through evaluating preparation in mathematics and physics, incorporating non-traditional teaching methods into the classroom, and engaging her students with interactive methods.

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Jeffrey E. Froyd Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jeffrey E. Froyd is a TEES Research Professor in the Office of Engineering Academic and Student Affairs at Texas A&M University, College Station. He received the B.S. degree in mathematics from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He was an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. At Rose-Hulman, he co-created the Integrated, First-Year Curriculum in Science, Engineering and Mathematics, which was recognized in 1997 with a Hesburgh Award Certificate of Excellence. He served as Project Director a National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Education Coalition in which six institutions systematically renewed, assessed, and institutionalized innovative undergraduate engineering curricula. He has authored over 70 papers and offered over 30 workshops on faculty development, curricular change processes, curriculum redesign, and assessment. He has served as a program co-chair for three Frontiers in Education Conferences and the general chair for the 2009 conference. Prof. Froyd is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), an ABET Program Evaluator, the Editor-in-Chief for the IEEE Transactions on Education, a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Engineering Education, and an Associate Editor for the International Journal of STEM Education.

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Changing the extent to which first-year undergraduate engineering students identify with engineering may be an essential ingredient for improving retention. Research suggests that the degree to which a student is attached to or belongs to engineering as a discipline better explains retention-related outcomes than lack of interest and ability. As a result, identity frameworks have proven useful for furthering understanding of engineering retention. One study looked at patterns of value that students assign to earning an engineering degree and suggested that understanding these patterns would be useful in improving student retention. The researchers concluded that “a primary differentiating feature of these patterns is whether or not participants choose engineering because it is consistent with their personal identify or sense of self”. Another study illustrated the value of professional identity and the need for “students [to have] opportunities to engage” in forming a professional identity. A third study showed how students determined their engineering identity by learning how to recognize qualities of an engineer. Collectively, these studies suggest that the degree to which students identify with engineering as a major is likely to be a useful factor in improving retention in engineering.

While qualitative studies provide rich insights into engineering identity, evaluating engineering identity for hundreds or thousands of first-year students requires a quantitative instrument. Therefore, we are currently developing a quantitative tool for measuring engineering identity. It consists of obtaining information on eight scales to measure different aspects of the extent to which a student identifies with engineering. Three of the scales on the instrument relate to fit, links and sacrifice among engineering college students. Fit refers to the extent to which students perceive their abilities as matching the demands of the engineering college major. Links is represented by the ties engineering students have to others affiliated with the major (e.g., peers, faculty). Finally, sacrifice is represented by the prospective losses students believe they would incur in leaving engineering (e.g., loss of opportunities and esteem). Each is measured quantitatively using seven items (links and sacrifice) or eight items (fit), which are answered on a 5-point Likert-type scale. These measures have good internal consistency reliability (α = .78 to .88). Sample items include: “Engineering is a good match for me” (fit); “I have ties to others in engineering” (links), and “I would sacrifice a lot if I left engineering” (sacrifice). This research paper evaluates three different scales used in measuring how well first-year engineering students identify as engineers.

The paper will describe three of the eight scales used in the qualitative tool in the study, fit, links, and sacrifice, and provide results from giving the scales to approximately 2,000 engineering first-year students at a large public institution. The intent of the paper is to clarify answers to two questions: 1) How do engineering students interpret three scales related to identity frameworks; and 2) What has been learned by giving these three scales to first-year engineering students.

Shryock, K. J., & Froyd, J. E. (2017, June), Board # 135 : “I AM an engineer!” Three Scales used in Measuring Identification of Engineering as First-Year Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27740

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