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Development and Testing of an Instrument to Understand Engineering Doctoral Students’ Identities and Motivations

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Motivation, Identity, and Belongingness

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

24

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30319

Download Count

64

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Paper Authors

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Heather Lee 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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Matthew Bahnson North Carolina State University

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Matthew Bahnson is a doctoral student at North Carolina State University in Applied Social and Community Psychology. His research interests include engineering identity, diversity, bias, stereotypes, and STEM education. He works with Dr. Cheryl Cass at NCSU.

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Marissa A. Tsugawa-Nieves 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. She 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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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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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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Abstract

This research paper explores the development and psychometrics of survey developed to understand the identities and motivations of engineering graduate students. Attrition among engineering graduate students remains a concern: within STEM fields, almost 50% of students leave before completing their PhD. Previous qualitative studies of engineering doctoral students (EDS) indicated that identity and motivation, while described differently than with undergraduates, are important factors in determining the quality of our work. However, work has yet to explore how these conceptualizations of motivation and identity generalize to the engineering graduate population nationally. To begin examining how these results generalize nationally we discuss the development of a survey and analyze pilot data from a sample of engineering graduate students.

Three questionnaires were created with an initial set of approximately 200 questions, focusing on themes of engineering identity, identity-based motivation, and future time perspective. These items were derived from previous research with undergraduates and from preliminary qualitative work with engineering graduate students. Surveys were administered to 333 EDS from two land-grant institutions on the East and West Coasts. Participant demographics followed expected patterns, with the majority identifying as male (63%), Asian (42%) or White (38%), and international (62%). Data were analyzed for patterns in missingness (i.e., individual items skipped by participants despite overall survey completion), effects on participants’ emotional state (using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, PANAS), and validity and reliability.

Analyses indicated that items operated as expected, despite the novelty of the EDS sample. Analysis using MANOVA indicated there was no significant effect of survey focus on positive or negative affect, F(4,646) = 1.075, p = .368. Through use of Exploratory Factor Analysis, the constructs underlying survey items were tested and and the list of items refined. Comparing the current results to previous literature also allowed for the development of hypotheses regarding differences between graduate and undergraduate populations, and the importance and relevance of these findings for future work with EDS.

Furthermore, the results of Little’s MCAR test indicate that that unanswered items were missing completely at random for all future time perspective (p = .51) and engineering identity items (p = .17). However, data was not missing at random in the identity-based motivation survey, χ2(503, N = 120) = 580.80, p = .009). Regression analyses of the primary demographic categories (race, gender, and international status) indicated that men were significantly more likely to skip three items which asked about their salient identities when writing peer-reviewed papers, b = .28, t(114) = 3.08, p = .003.

Overall, this analysis provides preliminary evidence that engineering identity, motivation, and future time perspective are similar to but subtly different constructs with engineering doctoral students when compared to undergrads. Although emotional state was not impacted by survey content (as measured by the PANAS), the patterns in the missing data indicate that items were not skipped at random. The implications of these findings for the full survey and for future studies will be discussed.

Perkins, H. L., & Bahnson, M., & Tsugawa-Nieves, M. A., & Kirn, A., & Cass, C. (2018, June), Development and Testing of an Instrument to Understand Engineering Doctoral Students’ Identities and Motivations Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30319

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