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Exploring Student Responses to Utility-value Interventions in Engineering Statics

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Motivation, Goal Orientation, Identity, and Career Aspirations

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Lorenzo Laxamana Ruiz California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo

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Lorenzo L. Ruiz is a 4th year Industrial Engineering student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Throughout his undergraduate career, he has completed internships in various fields being exposed to manufacturing operations, business systems, and continuous improvement environments. He is currently working towards a career in technical project management. He has served three years on the board of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers which helps connect industrial engineering students with industry leaders. For the last year, he has been working as an undergraduate researcher with the Critical Research in Engineering and Technology Education (CREATE) group exploring the nature of student motivation in engineering mechanics courses.

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Dominick Trageser California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo


Benjamin David Lutz California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Orcid 16x16

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Ben D. Lutz is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Design at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He is the leader of the Critical Research in Engineering and Technology Education (CREATE) group at Cal Poly. His research interests include critical pedagogies; efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion in engineering, engineering design theory and practice; conceptual change and understanding; and school-to-work transitions for new engineers. His current work explores a range of engineering education design contexts, including the role of power in brainstorming activities, epistemological and conceptual development of undergraduate learning assistants, as well as the experiences of recent engineering graduates as they navigate new organizational cultures.

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Introductory engineering mechanics courses (e.g., statics, dynamics) are critical courses within a curriculum, and student performance in these courses can have a strong influence on future success. As a result, such courses must help students develop the motivation and interest needed to persist through their engineering education. One particularly promising tool for this development has been Utility Value Interventions (UVIs) in which students are given opportunities to express how course content is personally useful to them. But while UVIs have been used successfully in subjects such as biology and psychology, their use in engineering contexts remains limited to date. Further, while research has demonstrated the effectiveness of UVIs, the specific content of student responses to them remains relatively underexplored. To address these gaps, we implemented a series of UVIs in an engineering statics course. The purpose of this paper is to explore the specific content of student responses to UVIs and to examine how students make connections between their values and their learning in statics. In the fall 2020 term, we distributed UVIs in which we asked students to describe their own values and articulate personal connections to the course content. We used thematic analysis in combination with in-vivo and descriptive coding to characterize student responses and better understand how they make connections between their personal values and the content they learn in class. Three dominant themes emerged from student responses: 1) Self-improvement; 2) Empathy/Kindness and 3) Helping. These themes provide a better understanding of the kinds of values that are important to students and offer insight into their interest and motivation as it relates to learning statics. Given the abstract, decontextualized mode in which engineering sciences are typically taught, instructors can work to foster these personal connections and enhance student motivation and success in foundational areas of an engineering curriculum. In particular, our results point to the importance of connecting engineering content to students’ experiences beyond the statics classroom. To cultivate student interest, including discussions or assignments that integrate these values can benefit students who might be struggling to find personal relevance to their engineering curriculum.

Ruiz, L. L., & Trageser, D., & Lutz, B. D. (2021, July), Exploring Student Responses to Utility-value Interventions in Engineering Statics Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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