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Board # 18 : Improving Performance and Retention of Engineering Graduate Students through Motivation and Identity Formation

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

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

Page Count

6

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/27798

Download Count

117

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Paper Authors

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Cheryl Cass North Carolina State University

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Cheryl Cass is a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University where she has served as the Director of Undergraduate Programs since 2011. Her research focuses on the intersection of science and engineering identity in post-secondary and graduate level programs.

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno

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Adam Kirn is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and their learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Marissa A Tsugawa University of Nevada, Reno

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Marissa Tsugawa is a graduate research assistant studying at the University of Nevada, Reno in the PRiDE Research Group. She is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Engineering Education and expects to graduate May of 2019. Her research interests include student development of identity and motivation in graduate engineering environments and understanding creativity in engineering design processes.

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Heather Perkins North Carolina State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-8757-0545

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Heather entered the Applied Social and Community Psychology program in the fall of 2014, after completing her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Cincinnati. She has participated in various research projects examining the interaction between stereotypes and science interest and confidence, their influence upon womens’ performance in school and the workplace, and their presence in the media and consequences for viewers. Her primary research interest is science identity, STEM education, and participation in online communities.

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Jessica Nicole Chestnut North Carolina State University

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Daniel Eamon Briggs North Carolina State University

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I am graduating from North Carolina State with a BS in Statistics in May 2017. In September 2017 I will be attending Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health to pursue a MS in Biostatistics.

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Blanca Miller University of Nevada, Reno

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Abstract

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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