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From Freshman Engineering Students to Practicing Professionals: Changes in Beliefs about Important Skills over Time

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Conference

2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Engineering Identity 1

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

20

Page Numbers

23.621.1 - 23.621.20

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/19635

Download Count

176

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Paper Authors

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Katherine E Winters Virginia Tech

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Katherine Winters earned her PhD in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech studying the career goals and actions of early career engineering graduates. She also has BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from BYU.

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Holly M Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Samantha Ruth Brunhaver Stanford University

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Samantha Brunhaver is a fifth year graduate student at Stanford University. She is currently working on her PhD in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in engineering education. Samantha completed a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern University in 2008 and a MS in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Design for Manufacturing from Stanford in 2010.

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Helen L. Chen Stanford University

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Helen L. Chen is a researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the director of ePortfolio initiatives in the Office of the Registrar at Stanford University. Helen's research interests are focused in three areas: academic and professional persistence in engineering education, the use of ePortfolios for teaching, learning, and assessment; documenting and evaluating pedagogical innovations in technology-augmented learning spaces. Helen and her colleagues Tracy Penny-Light and John Ittelson are the authors of Documenting Learning with ePortfolios: A Guide for College Instructors (2011).

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Ken Yasuhara University of Washington, Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT)

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Ken Yasuhara was a research team member for the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education’s Academic Pathways Study (CAEE APS) and is currently a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT). His research and teaching interests include engineering design, major choice, and professional portfolios. He completed an A.B. in computer science at Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. When he finds the time, he enjoys cooking, photography, bicycle repair, and cycling (instead of owning a car).

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Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

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Sheri is in the Design Group of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. Besides teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on structural analysis and design, she serves an administrative role as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education. Her research focuses on the study of educational and career pathways of people interested in technical work (and how to make K-20 education more supportive of these pathways).

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Abstract

From Freshman Engineering Students to Practicing Professionals: Changes in Beliefs about Important Skills over TimeFor years the engineering education community has been discussing the desired attributes of“The Engineer of 2020”, and engineering educators have changed their programs to betterprepare such engineers. Few studies have been able to follow students though theirundergraduate studies and beyond to track how and why their perceptions of important skillschange. Our purpose in this research was to explore what skills engineering students andgraduates believe are important for their careers and how these beliefs change over time.Data for this research were drawn from both the Academic Pathways Study (APS) and theEngineering Pathways Study (EPS). As part of APS, a group of undergraduate engineeringstudents were interviewed once and surveyed twice each year for the first three years of theirundergraduate studies. They were also surveyed once in their senior year, and some participantscompleted senior interviews. Approximately four years after the participants completed theirundergraduate studies, the Engineering Pathways Study (EPS) followed up with a subset of APSparticipants. EPS consisted of detailed questionnaires and interviews, and then the developmentof the PEARS (Pathways of Engineering Alumni Research Survey) instrument for broaderadministration. From two of the participating institutions, there were a total of 13 people thatcompleted the APS interviews, APS surveys, EPS questionnaire and/or interview, and PEARS.These 13 participants are the focus of our current research. The multitude of data available foreach participant provides a unique perspective on how beliefs about important skills develop andchange over the eight-year study.Overall our research is broadly situated in social cognitive career theory. This theory suggeststhat a variety of factors contribute to career choices and beliefs about the skills needed to be anengineer. Our data are both qualitative and quantitative. Participants were asked in surveys toselect important skills from a list as well as rate the importance of individual skills. They werealso asked to explain and describe their educational and professional experiences using importantskills in the interviews. Reflecting these sources, we relied on quantitative data to highlighttrends and qualitative data to explain the lived experiences. We used case study methods tofollow individual participants’ experiences over time.Our findings extend prior findings from APS, EPS, and other research. We found that whilestudents cite a variety of skills as necessary to being a successful engineer, each student tends toconsistently cite similar types of skills across time and across data measures. Also, from firstyear to fourth year then on into the profession, students develop greater specificity with whichthey can articulate skills and an ability to situate them in more realistic engineering contexts.These results are particularly valuable because of the comprehensive and longitudinal nature ofthe data. Understanding both students’ and graduates’ perspectives of important skills can helpus better prepare the next generation of students to have the skills that they will need for successin their endeavors.

Winters, K. E., & Matusovich, H. M., & Brunhaver, S. R., & Chen, H. L., & Yasuhara, K., & Sheppard, S. (2013, June), From Freshman Engineering Students to Practicing Professionals: Changes in Beliefs about Important Skills over Time Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/19635

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