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Board 147: Coulda, Woulda, Will I?: An Experimental Investigation of Counterfactual Thoughts and Intention Generation in Engineering Student Success

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

10

DOI

10.18260/1-2--32262

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/32262

Download Count

239

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Paper Authors

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Amy Summerville Miami University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-6409-8233

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Dr. Summerville is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Miami University. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Summerville is a social psychologist whose research examines how thoughts of "what might have been" affect emotion, motivation, and behavior. She is the PI of a grant from NSF's EEC division investigating new interventions in engineering education that utilize social cognitive psychology.

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Jennifer Blue

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Jennifer Blue is an Associate Professor of Physics at Miami University. She works to give more people access to physics. Sometimes that’s reforming the curriculum for introductory classes, sometimes it’s working with K-12 science teachers, and sometimes it’s advocating for traditionally excluded populations, including women in STEM. Her website can be found here: http://www.users.miamioh.edu/bluejm/.

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Brian P. Kirkmeyer Miami University

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Brian Kirkmeyer is the Karen Buchwald Wright Senior Assistant Dean for Student Success and Instructor in the College of Engineering and Computing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His background includes BS, MS and PhD degrees in Materials Science and Engineering (specialization in polymers), the former from Purdue University and the latter two from the University of Pennsylvania. He has work experiences in automotive electronics (Delphi Automotive Systems) and consumer products (International Flavors and Fragrances) prior to his current role. He served on the executive committee of the ASEE Women in Engineering division from 2010 to present.

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Brielle Nikole Johnson

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Brielle Johnson is a graduate student in the Social Psychology program of the Department of Psychology at Miami University. She earned her B.S. from Grand Valley State University with a double major in Psychology and Sociology. Her research interests include issues related to social class, as well as areas of existential psychology and counterfactual thinking.

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Abstract

Students frequently struggle in first year engineering and cognate classes, posing challenges to timely completion of the degree and potentially contributing to attrition from engineering majors. The goal of our grant (NSF EEC-[Number to be added in final version]) is to examine whether helping students reflect on performance early in the course would improve student outcomes. In particular, we examined counterfactual thoughts, thoughts about “what might have been.” These thoughts contribute to causal reasoning and play an important role in making plans for the future. Additionally, we examined behavioral intentions, specific plans for future actions in the course, which research has also shown improves student outcomes.

After the first exam in a large-enrollment class taken by first-year engineering majors, 290 students were randomly assigned to either generate counterfactuals about what they personally could have done differently that would have resulting in doing better on the exam (vs. describe their actual performance) and to either generate intentions about what they could personally do to improve their performance for the remainder of the semester (vs. describe their expectations for the remainder of the semester). Students also reported their exam grade. At the end of the semester, instructors provided the final course grade.

We examined the effects of the intervention conditions by regressing final grade onto the counterfactual condition, intention condition, and the standardized value of the exam grade and all possible interaction terms. This revealed no significant effect of either intervention condition, nor any significant interaction involving either intervention condition.

Thus, in the current study, neither reflecting on thoughts about how one could have done something different to improve performance nor generating plans to improve in the future improved student outcomes in the course. Ongoing work is examining whether there are specific subgroups of students who benefitted from the intervention, and whether there are additional circumstances under which these interventions might be beneficial.

Summerville, A., & Blue, J., & Kirkmeyer, B. P., & Johnson, B. N. (2019, June), Board 147: Coulda, Woulda, Will I?: An Experimental Investigation of Counterfactual Thoughts and Intention Generation in Engineering Student Success Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32262

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