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Do Open-ended Design Projects Motivate First-year Engineering Students?

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

The Best of First-year Programs Division

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Chao Wang Arizona State University

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Chao Wang received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is currently a senior lecturer in Ira. A Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

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This complete research paper examines students’ situational motivation responses to open-ended design projects with varying degrees of autonomy control in a freshman Introduction to Engineering course. Four sections of the course were given different project themes with different constraints on scope and materials. The Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS) survey, an instrument to measure four types of motivation (intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, external regulation and amotivation) based on Self-Determination Theory (SDT), was administered weekly to the students enrolled in the four sections during the nine-week open-ended design project. A Basic Needs Satisfaction Scale (BNSS) survey was given at the end of the semester to measure the degree to which three basic psychological needs, autonomy, relatedness, and competence, were satisfied. Quantitative analysis reveals that the open-ended design project with the least constraints prompts more positive self-determination compared to the one with the most constraints. The provision of choice and control has a more prominent impact on female students’ motivation than on male students. The perceived need satisfaction of competence may play a role in shaping students’ motivational responses.

Wang, C. (2020, June), Do Open-ended Design Projects Motivate First-year Engineering Students? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34473

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