Asee peer logo

Exploring Engineering Students’ Beliefs on Effort and Intelligence

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Student Beliefs, Motivation and Self Efficacy

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.579.1 - 24.579.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Nora B. Honken University of Louisville

visit author page

Nora Honken holds degrees in industrial engineering from Virginia Tech and Arizona State University. She will receive a Ph.D. in education leadership, foundations, and human development from the University of Louisville in May 2014. She has held positions in engineering and management for Axxess Technologies, Varian, Amoco and Corning, and has taught in industry, and at the community college, graduate, and undergraduate levels. Her research interests include engineering student performance and retention, and how to best teach work skills throughout the engineering curriculum.

visit author page


Patricia A Ralston University of Louisville

visit author page

Dr. Patricia A. S. Ralston is Chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at the University of Louisville and also has an associate appointment in Chemical Engineering. Dr. Ralston teaches undergraduate engineering mathematics and is currently involved in educational research on the effective use of Tablet PCs in engineering education, the incorporation of critical thinking in undergraduate engineering education, and retention of engineering students. Her fields of technical expertise include process modeling, simulation, and process control.

visit author page


Kate E. Snyder University of Louisville

visit author page

Kate Snyder is an assistant professor in the department of educational and counseling psychology, counseling, and college student personnel at the University of Louisville. Her research interests include understanding the role of achievement motivation in the development of academic underachievement, particularly among gifted students.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Type of paper: research paper Exploring Engineering Students’ Beliefs on Effort and Intelligence Prior research in achievement motivation has highlighted the importance of students’implicit beliefs regarding the malleability of intelligence and students beliefs about theeffectiveness of effort. These beliefs shape students’ perceptions and reactions to experiencessuch as academic success and failure, and predict critical outcomes such as persistence throughchallenge. Limited research has examined these constructs for college students enrolled inengineering programs. However, investigating these constructs may prove fruitful inunderstanding variability in students’ persistence, success, and retention in engineering. In the current study, a survey was administered to the Fall 2013 engineering cohort ofstudents at University XXXX (n = 494; 97% response rate) during the first week of the semester.Participants reported on effort beliefs and implicit beliefs about intelligence. Participants werealso asked to report on their perceptions of the relative contributions of effort andability/intelligence for achievement in both high school and what they anticipated forengineering school. Variability was observed with regard to students’ perceptions on the relativecontributions of effort and ability/intelligence to high school achievement. On average, studentsbelieved effort was less important than intelligence/ability in determining high schoolperformance (mean percentage rating for effort = 41%; mean percentage rating forintelligence/ability: 59%, SD = 22.84). In contrast, on average, students believed effort would bemore important than intelligence/ability in determining grades in engineering school (M%effort =65%, M%intelligence/ability = 35%, SD = 18.72). Eighty-two percent of the students anticipated thateffort would be more important in engineering school than it was in high school, eight percentanticipated it would be of the same importance and ten percent anticipated it would be lessimportant in engineering school than in high school. Female participants placed moreimportance on effort for grade attainment than did male participants for both high school (t(490)= 2.12, p = .035) and engineering school (t(490) = -2.66, p = .008). On average, female participants reported more adaptive effort beliefs (M = 4.80, SD =.52; total scale scores can range from 1 to 6) than male participants (M = 4.62, SD = .63) (t(170)= -2.98, p = .003). In other words, female participants indicated that they see a strongerrelationship between effort and positive outcomes regardless of intelligence. Across the currentsample, all students primarily endorsed an incremental view of intelligence (M = 2.63, SD = 1.0;total scale scores can range from 1 [pure incremental belief] to 6 [pure entity belief]). Onaverage, female participants endorsed incremental beliefs (M = 2.44, SD = .97) to a greaterdegree than male participants (M = 2.67, SD = 1.03) (t(490) = 2.05, p = .04). This preliminary study has described freshmen engineering students’ beliefs regardingeffort and intelligence. Ongoing research with this cohort will investigate the relations betweenstudents’ beliefs regard effort and intelligence, self-reported effort exertion, academicperformance and retention in an engineering major.* Data collection with this cohort is ongoing; additional analyses regarding the associationsbetween implicit beliefs, effort beliefs, and academic outcomes will be reported in the full paper.ReferencesBlackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligencepredict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention.Child Development, 78, 246-263. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.00995.xDweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation andpersonality. Psychological Review, 95, 256-273.Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believethat personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 47, 302-314. doi:10.1080/00461520.2012.722805

Honken, N. B., & Ralston, P. A., & Snyder, K. E. (2014, June), Exploring Engineering Students’ Beliefs on Effort and Intelligence Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20470

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015