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Exploring Learning By Engineering Students In Natural Contexts

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

New Learning Models

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.617.1 - 10.617.10



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Paper Authors

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Briar Schumacher

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Jon Leydens

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Donald Elger

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Exploring Intrinsically Motivated Learning by Engineering Students

Briar E. Schumacher+, Donald F. Elger+, Jon A. Leydens* + University of Idaho/*Colorado School of Mines

Abstract. While scholars suggest that teaching should be based on how people naturally learn, this type of teaching can be difficult. Thus, the need for this study was improved understanding of how people learn. The research question driving this study is: how do engineering students engage in and describe learning when the learning is intrinsically motivated? The methods involved the grounded theory tradition of qualitative social research. The results of this study are a participant-based theory that showed that the central aspect of learning is authentic participation, which is defined as learning by taking part in the profession, sport, or hobby. The participant-based theory showed that learning occurs in a cyclic process that includes authentic participation, feedback, investigation, and experimentation. This cyclic process is a growth process that continually improves the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values of the learners. This cyclic process is embedded in a structure or matrix that connects the individual, the physical environment, and the community. Within this matrix, community plays a central role because learning is accelerated and sustained by relationships that support people as they overcome challenges and attain their goals. I. Introduction Present engineering education practices emphasize coverage of fundamentals and passing of in- class exams as measures of success. Students in classrooms are passive and focused on attaining points needed to earn grades. Most professors and students seem content with traditional education. However, there is a new vision of education that is emerging. This new vision involves designing learning environments that align with the natural ways that people learn. For professors who are pursing this new vision, there is a need to understand learning. This need motivated the present question: how do engineering students engage in and describe learning when the learning is intrinsically motivated? Here, intrinsically motivated learning is defined as learning that takes place when a person consciously chooses to learn and they act in ways that they believe will best help them reach their goals. The present study uses grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin, 1998), one of the five traditions of qualitative social science research (Creswell, 1998; Creswell, 2003.). The study was conducted at the University of Idaho during the spring semester of 2004 and involved six male and two female undergraduate engineering majors. II. Literature review Traditional education, as described by Dewey (1938), is transmission of knowledge: The subject matter of education consists of bodies of information and skills that have been worked out in the past; therefore, the chief business of the school is to transmit them to the new generation .… Books, especially textbooks, are the chief representatives of the

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Schumacher, B., & Leydens, J., & Elger, D. (2005, June), Exploring Learning By Engineering Students In Natural Contexts Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14883

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: © 2005 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