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How Much Does Student Perception of Course Attributes Impact Student Motivation?

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Course Design, Course Projects, and Student Perceptions in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Margot A Vigeant Bucknell University

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Margot Vigeant is a professor of chemical engineering at Bucknell University. She earned her B.S. in chemical engineering from Cornell University, and her M.S. and Ph.D., also in chemical engineering, from the University of Virginia. Her primary research focus is on engineering pedagogy at the undergraduate level. She is particularly interested in the teaching and learning of concepts related to thermodynamics. She is also interested in active, collaborative, and problem-based learning, and in the ways hands-on activities such as making, technology, and games can be used to improve student engagement.

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Amy F. Golightly Bucknell University Orcid 16x16

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Amy Golightly is an associate professor of education at Bucknell University. She earned her B. A. in psychology from the University of Saint Thomas, and her Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of Iowa. Her main research interests lie in understanding factors that facilitate or hinder learning and conceptual change in undergraduate students, and in development of assistive technology to help college students with disabilities. She is currently involved in collaborative research projects focused on these topics in chemical and electrical engineering.

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Intrinsic motivation creates a more positive and engaged atmosphere in the classroom, and is positively correlated with students’ persistence in engineering. While an instructor can’t “intrinsically motivate” students, they certainly can create conditions that cultivate or defeat intrinsic motivation. In this study, the impact on students’ motivational state of five course design features was measured using Guay, Vallerand, and Blanchard’s Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS) (1). Course features considered included the incorporation of open-ended problem solving, physical realization of a design, incorporation of broad perspectives, interdisciplinary student teams, and “real” problems. These course features were aligned with Self-Determination Theory to create the conditions for enhanced student intrinsic motivation (2). Prior work suggested that intrinsic motivation was especially cultivated by having students work in an interdisciplinary environment, on problems for external clients or that were personally meaningful (7). However, this prior work only considered faculty-reported presence or absence of course design features. Surveys suggested that students and faculty were not in perfect agreement about the presence of certain course features, notably interdisciplinary-interactions and the extent to which problems were “real” and reflective of what students expect to see in their career or find personally meaningful. This study focuses on the students’ perceptions of course elements and the extent to which students’ perception of the presence or absence of these elements impacts their motivational state in their coursework.

Vigeant, M. A., & Golightly, A. F. (2020, June), How Much Does Student Perception of Course Attributes Impact Student Motivation? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34733

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