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CAREER: Student Motivation and Learning in Engineering

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.261.1 - 24.261.9



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Paper Authors


Lisa Benson Clemson University

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Lisa Benson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Bioengineering. Her research interests include assessment of motivation, how motivation affects student learning, and student-centered active learning. She is also involved in projects that utilize Tablet PCs to enhance and assess learning, and incorporating engineering into secondary science and math classrooms. Dr. Benson teaches introductory undergraduate engineering, biomechanics, and graduate engineering education courses. Her education includes a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Vermont, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Bioengineering from Clemson University.

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno Orcid 16x16

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Courtney June Faber Clemson University

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CAREER: Student Motivation and Learning in EngineeringThis research seeks to help engineering educators understand factors that contribute to students’motivation, such as expectations, values, and goals, and the relationship between those factorsand their problem solving processes. Understanding these relationships will address one of thegreatest challenges facing engineering educators: preparing students for a future of complexproblem solving in the face of rapid technological change and globalization. To this end, thisstudy addresses 3 research questions: What factors contribute to students’ motivation to pursueengineering? How do motivational attributes correlate to problem-solving and knowledgetransfer? How do these relationships and correlations compare between two disciplines:bioengineering (BioE) and mechanical engineering (ME)?In Phase I of this project, differences in motivation for students in different majors grouped asinterdisciplinary or traditional were examined quantitatively. A survey developed by our researchteam, Motivation and Attitudes in Engineering (MAE) (constructs included Expectancy,Perceptions of the Present and Perceptions of the Future) was completed by first yearengineering students at a southeastern land grant university (n= 494). Results showed limiteddifferences between major groups, but they describe the subtle differences between studentmotivations in different majors. Interdisciplinary majors reported more struggles in theirintroductory courses, valued their introductory courses more, felt that they were working harder,and expected better grades in their introductory courses when compared to students in traditionalmajors. Differences in students’ reasons for choosing their majors were observed:interdisciplinary students value the benefits of a major with possible scholarship money and theopportunity to benefit society, while traditional majors think engineers do interesting work andenjoy designing and building things.In Phase II, student motivation and problem-solving self-efficacy were compared for second-yearBioE and ME majors using mixed methods. The MAE survey was adapted to include problemsolving self-efficacy items. Two interviews were conducted with a subset of students: the firstexplored their perceptions of their futures, and in the second they were asked to solve a problemthat was novel to them. Quantitative results indicated that students’ with higher GPA hadsignificantly higher Expectancies and problem-solving self-efficacy. No significant differenceswere seen based on major, sex, race, or math scores; this may indicate that students who make itto major-specific courses have similar motivation profiles. BioE’s had significantly higherexpectancies (5.28) than ME’s (4.83). ME’s had statistically lower GPA (3.31) than BioE’s (3.51,p=0.03). Differences in GPA between BioE’s and ME’s may explain higher expectancy forBioE’s.Future work includes completion of the qualitative analysis of interview data, and continuingdata collection for completion of a longitudinal study of changes in student motivation andproblem solving practices over time for the final phase of the project.

Benson, L., & Kirn, A., & Faber, C. J. (2014, June), CAREER: Student Motivation and Learning in Engineering Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20152

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