June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
NSF Grantees Poster Session
The overarching goal of our research project is to address the 50% attrition rate of engineering graduate students and to improve the experiences of students by propelling evidence-based policy-making in engineering doctoral programs. To address this issue, we seek to describe how graduate student experiences impact engineering identity formation and goal setting processes, which have been shown as important for undergraduate student participation in engineering communities, but have not been applied to engineering graduate communities. Through a mixed methods study focused on graduate student motivational goal setting and identity formation, the following research questions will be answered: 1) How does the engineering community influence identity formation and motivational goal setting processes of engineering graduate students? 2) How do these processes related to identity formation and motivation influence engineering graduate student retention, productivity, and pursuit of doctoral level engineering careers? In brief, the study will be guided by Step 1. qualitative - Step 2. quantitative - Step. 3 qualitative methods, where Step 1 involves interviewing engineering graduate students to inform item generation for a national survey that will be distributed to 5,000 engineering graduate students (Step 2). Quantitative data will be analyzed using advanced clustering techniques to create attitudinal profiles that reflect graduate students' identities and motivations. Up to 50 students of varying attitudinal profiles will be selected for follow-up interviews (Step 3) about their experiences in graduate school.
The focus of this paper is on the first phase of the project (Year 1) during which we developed and employed four interview protocols, which sought to characterize student experiences in the context of 1) future time perspective, 2) identity, 3) identity based motivation, and 4) graduate experiences. The first three interview protocols were developed to test the theoretical assumptions of this project, while the last protocol was designed to be more open-ended in nature and student led as to capture student experiences that may not have been outlined in the original proposal. We interviewed 41 engineering graduate students at a southeastern and western university, using focus groups and individual interviews. Data were transcribed and analyzed through use of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). IPA seeks to evaluate students’ interpretations of their lived experiences. Several emergent themes (e.g., social implications, belongingness, academic experiences, autonomy) will be selected for discussion.
Ongoing work will focus on the transition of qualitative data analysis to quantitative instrument development, using themes generated from IPAs to inform the unique language and experiential elements of engineering doctoral programs, which will ultimately drive generation and refinement of survey items. To that end, we have created items for a pilot instrument after consultation with field experts and by extracting items from previous national surveys in addition to creating a statistically robust sampling plan at the engineering department level for the purpose of graduate student recruitment.
Cass, C., & Kirn, A., & Tsugawa, M. A., & Perkins, H., & Chestnut, J. N., & Briggs, D. E., & Miller, B. (2017, June), Board # 18 : Improving Performance and Retention of Engineering Graduate Students through Motivation and Identity Formation Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27798
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