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Exploring Engineering Mindset

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Exploring the Entrepreneurial and Innovation Mindset

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


George D. Ricco University of Kentucky

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George D. Ricco is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Kentucky. He focuses his work between teaching in the first-year engineering program at UK and research in student progression. Previously, he was the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Program Coordinator at Gonzaga University in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He completed his doctorate in engineering education from Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education. He received an M.S. in earth and planetary sciences studying geospatial imaging, and an M.S. in physics studying high-pressure, high-temperature FT-IR spectroscopy in heavy water, both from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He holds a B.S.E. in engineering physics with a concentration in electrical engineering from Case Western Reserve University. His academic interests include longitudinal analysis, visualization, ethnography, team formation, gender issues, existential phenomenology, and lagomorph physiology.

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Suzann Girtz Gonzaga University

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Suzann is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education in Gonzaga University's School of Education. A former math and science teacher, she now teaches preservice educators and conducts research in the areas of assessment and school change. More of her work can be found at

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Stephen E. Silliman Gonzaga University

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Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Gonzaga University. Director, Benin water resources research program (initially through the University of Notre Dame and more recently through Gonzaga University)

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Educators, in particular, are interested in better understanding how students perceive their own intelligence so that programs and instructors might use that knowledge to help support learning. If students insist that intelligence and talent are fixed traits that cannot be influenced via instruction or practice, institutes of higher education become less able to promote the learning and achievement necessary in today’s marketplace. Certainly in today’s engineering landscape, flexibility seems to be a requirement of the technical world, and one would hope the mindset of students could shift to better situate them for the challenges of tomorrow.

The investigation of student mindsets utilized a survey dedicated to typifying students’ frames of minds in terms of preconceptions based on fixed versus malleable interpretations of traits including intelligence and talent. In order to properly investigate the mindset of 276 engineering students, we utilized an instrument based on the Dweck protocol. We developed three working research questions that aim at the heart of student mindset: first, what mindsets to do engineering candidates bring to higher education; second, is there a difference across groups of students; and third, how to student perceive talent and intelligence. We note a number of interesting patterns among all three research questions, but also make a number of pleasant discoveries. For instance, the nature of mindset differences between the sexes was not generally apparent in our results. Also, we note that certain types of questions seem to divide groups of student respondents more than others. Finally, we address the increasingly fixed perceptions of mindset that seems to occur as students mature in their studies.

Ricco, G. D., & Girtz, S., & Silliman, S. E. (2017, June), Exploring Engineering Mindset Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28328

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