June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.725.1 - 12.725.12
Exploring the relationships among performance on engineering tasks, confidence, gender, and first year persistence
In this exploratory study our analyses show that although first-year women performed equally well as their male counterparts on an engineering task, they reported significantly lower self-ratings of confidence in their intellectual and technical abilities (math and science) than men, yet still persisted at the same rate as their male counterparts during the first year. These findings stand in contrast to other studies which have shown self-confidence to be positively related with successful achievement of goals (i.e. performing an engineering task successfully, graduating from an engineering program). Therefore, we seek to explain this apparent contradiction through expectancy and cognitive dissonance theory and suggest that first year programs have a unique opportunity to help students by aligning their expectations with engineering school experience and increasing the potential for successful completion of an engineering program.
Despite a decade of programs aimed at attracting women and minority students to engineering,1,2 enrollment in engineering programs continues to be flat or declining. High attrition during the first two years,3,4 and a lack of diversity in engineering students1 raise concerns nationally about maintaining a competitive edge and future technological advancement. As a result of recent studies focused on engineering retention, a greater understanding of academic pathways into and out of engineering is emerging. Among the growing literature on engineering student diversity is an unclear picture of the relationship, if any, between self-confidence and success. The study described in this paper examines first-year female and male students’ performance on an engineering task as it is related to their self-confidence and persistence in engineering education. Our goal here is to contribute to our ongoing research efforts to understand how students think about engineering, how they conceive of themselves as engineers, and how these understandings influence their practices as they develop into engineers.
In this exploratory study we use data from the Academic Pathways Study, a longitudinal, multi- institution study (n = 160). Our analyses show that although first-year women reported significantly lower self-ratings of confidence in their intellectual and technical abilities (math and science) than men, they performed equally well on an engineering performance task, and likewise persisted at the same rate as their male counterparts during the first year. These findings stand in contrast to other studies which have shown self-confidence to be positively related with successful achievement of goals. Therefore, we seek to enrich our understanding of any potential relationship by asking the following questions:
Are there particular “types” of confidence aligned with gender?
What accounts for women’s equal success in terms of performance and persistence in the first year of their engineering education in comparison to men, despite their self-reported lower confidence in their intellectual and technical abilities?
Light, J., & Korte, R., & Yasuhara, K., & Kilgore, D. (2007, June), Exploring The Relationships Among Performance On Engineering Tasks, Confidence, Gender And First Year Persistence Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2323
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