Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Educational Research and Methods
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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