June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.310.1 - 23.310.14
Comparing First-year Student Attitudes towards Engineering across a Liberal Arts UniversityMany researchers have worked to identify the traits that are common to students who enroll andpersist in engineering including how attitudes towards engineering affect a student s decision topursue an engineering degree and persist in the program. This research has found that highpersistence is related to an entering student s general impression of engineering and the workengineers perform, enjoyment of previous math and science classes, and confidence in ability tosucceed as an engineer. Most of these studies assessed only engineering students; their resultsmay not be helpful in identifying why students choose to study engineering.In this work, we investigate the attitudes of first-time-in college (FTIC) students in a variety ofdisciplines including engineering and non-engineering majors. By better understanding theattitudes for students who choose and do not choose engineering as a major, engineeringprograms may be able to more effectively admit students into their programs and recruit studentsfrom across their campuses. is well-positioned to conduct such a studybecause all students are accepted by the university rather than a specific major. The university isa mid-sized, nationally ranked, faith-based, private university with a liberal arts tradition. Allmajors are open to any student and no programs are capped. Entering students schedules arebased on student course preferences. Any student interested in engineering takes an engineeringclass their first semester. Since this is based on student preferences after admission, there are nointentional differences in the demographic or academic characteristics of the students admitted toengineering and majors outside of engineering. Essentially all admitted students could chooseengineering. This provides an ideal environment to compare the attitudes towards engineering ofFTIC matriculants pursuing a wide range of majors.During the first week of Fall 2012, approximately 40% of the incoming first-year students wereinvited to complete an attitudes survey based on the Pittsburgh Freshman Engineering Survey(PFES). 282 students in 28 classes completed the survey including 57 engineers, 52 studentsstudying science, 90 in social sciences, and 83 in humanities. Factor analysis is being used toidentify which characteristics distinguish engineers from other students and which are sharedamong different groups. In addition, the analysis will look for the contributions of other factorsincluding gender, race/ethnicity, family background, and academic preparation.Preliminary analysis suggests that students who choose engineering have different attitudes thanthose who do not. As might be expected, the engineers appear more confident in their ability tosucceed in engineering than other students. They are more likely to expect that an engineeringcareer would be rewarding. On the other hand, although the engineers are more likely to have avery high perception of the value of the discipline, all students reported similarly highperceptions. One interesting result appears to be the influence of family in selecting the major.Although family appears to have the least influence on whether a student pursues engineering, itwas greater than family influence in other disciplines.
Olson, R., & Ngo, T. T., & Lord, S. M. (2013, June), Comparing First-year Student Attitudes towards Engineering across a Liberal Arts University Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/19324
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