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Faculty Perceptions of Student Engagement: A Qualitative Inquiry

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Faculty: Interactions, Influences and Issues

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.597.1 - 24.597.21



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Paper Authors


Mariafé Taeví Panizo James Madison University

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Mariafé Panizo is a second year graduate student in JMU’s Graduate Psychology program. She has been working on engineering education research projects for one and a half years, focusing on non-cognitive factors that impact engineering student success. She is currently working on her M.A. thesis on Beliefs on Depression.

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John Hollander James Madison University

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Jesse Pappas James Madison University


Olga Pierrakos James Madison University

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OLGA PIERRAKOS is an associate professor and founding faculty member of the James Madison University Department of Engineering. At JMU, Dr. Pierrakos is the Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering Education (CIEE) and Director of the Advanced Thermal Fluids Laboratory. Her interests in engineering education research center around recruitment and retention, engineer identity, engineering design instruction and methodology, learning through service, problem based learning methodologies, assessment of student learning, as well as complex problem solving. Her other research interests lie in cardiovascular fluid mechanics, sustainability, and K-12 engineering outreach. Dr. Pierrakos is a 2009 NSF CAREER Awardee. Dr. Pierrakos holds a B.S. in Engineering Science and Mechanics, an M.S. in Engineering Mechanics, and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

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Robin D. Anderson James Madison University

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Robin Anderson is a Professor and the Academic Unit Head in the Department of Graduate Psychology at James Madison University. Prior to her current position, she served as the Associate Director of JMU's Center for Assessment and Research Studies. Her research interests include Engineering Education and the assessment of student learning outcomes in higher education.

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Faculty Perceptionsof Student Engagement: A Qualitative Inquiry There is a national concern about the relatively largeproportion of students who leaveengineering programs. Even with tremendous efforts in place, such as summer bridge programs,learning communities, mentoring programs, integrating authentic problems and projects incurricula, etc., the trends have not changed and retention still ranges from 40% to 60% for themajority of engineering programs. The past decades, and even recently, there are many studiesthat have suggested that the persistence problem is related to student engagement. According tothe literature, college faculty and staff play a most essential role in student engagement and aid issupporting students in socializing in the academic community, facilitating the environment forstudents to enhance self-efficacy and self-confidence, helping students strengthen theirprofessional identity, etc..The literature in student engagement does suggest that there may bekey differences in faculties’ perceptions the role they play in regards to engaging students. Somedepartments seem to have established a culture of student engagement and there are activeattempts to sustain such a culture, whereas on the other end of the spectrum, there aredepartments that have not made any active attempt to establish a culture of student engagementbecause they feel it is mainly the responsibility of the student to be engaged. The purpose of this study is to gain insight into one engineering program's culture ofstudent engagement and compare this culture with what the literature describes as being ideal.More specifically, ten faculty (including an academic advisor) were interviewed following asemi-structured protocol to gain insight intofaculty perceptions of student engagement. Fourresearch questions grounded this effort: 1) How are student engagement and success related? 2)What characterizes an engaged student? 3) What are the faculty and department’sresponsibilities in increasing student engagement? 4) How do/how should faculty increasestudent engagement? The qualitative data were analyzed using a double coding technique (i.e.the codebook was developed using relevant student engagement literature across secondaryeducation domains as well as open-coding to allow for engineering-specific emergent themes).The results of the qualitative analyses show that the majority of the faculty participants believethat student engagement and success are related. More frequently cited characteristics of anengaged and successful student were:actively participating in class, interacting with faculty,having strong interpersonal skills, and being self-motivated. In terms of whose responsibility it isto engage, there seemed to be a split - some faculty believed that most of the responsibility lieswith the students, some faculty believed that most responsibility lies with the faculty, and othersthought that it was an equally shared responsibility. In terms of the actions faculty take toincrease student engagement, the most frequently mentioned strategies were encouraging studentautonomy, strengthening the departmental community, promoting interclass communication. This study hopes to compare and contrast engineering faculty’s perceptions of variousaspects of student engagement with similar literature from across secondary education in order toilluminate discrepancies and provide a foundation to close such gaps.

Panizo, M. T., & Hollander, J., & Pappas, J., & Pierrakos, O., & Anderson, R. D. (2014, June), Faculty Perceptions of Student Engagement: A Qualitative Inquiry Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20488

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