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I Like Therefore I Learn! Engineering Student Motivation to Learn in Their Least and Most Favorite Courses

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Faculty Development II

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.870.1 - 26.870.12



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Paper Authors


Louis Nadelson Utah State University

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Louis S. Nadelson is an associate professor and lead researcher for the Center for the School of the Future in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University. He has a BS from Colorado State University, a BA from the Evergreen State College, a MEd from Western Washington University, and a PhD in educational psychology from UNLV. His scholarly interests include all areas of STEM teaching and learning, inservice and preservice teacher professional development, program evaluation, multidisciplinary research, and conceptual change. Nadelson uses his over 20 years of high school and college math, science, computer science, and engineering teaching to frame his research on STEM teaching and learning. Nadelson brings a unique perspective of research, bridging experience with practice and theory to explore a range of interests in STEM teaching and learning.

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Kimberly Kristine Hardy Boise State University

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I am an assistant professor at Boise State University in the Psychology Department. My main areas of research involve personality development, romantic relationships, teaching and learning, and positive psychology.

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Dazhi Yang Boise State University

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I Like Therefore I Learn! Engineering Student Motivation to Learn in Their Least and Most Favorite Courses Although motivation for learning has been studied widely (e.g. Shah, & Gardner, 2008), there hasbeen a lack of research examining student motivation for learning and course favoritism. Ourconversations with students led us to wonder how much engineering students’ perceptions of courses astheir favorite or least favorite determined their motivation to learn. Further, we investigated if studentsshifted motivation goal orientation (Pintrich, 2000) from performance to mastery (Elliot, 1999) betweentheir least and most favorite courses. The implications are substantial for student learning, success, andcareer persistence if motivation to learn shifts with how much students like or dislike a course,particularly if courses are degree requirements. We examined how motivation to learn shifted with students’ course favoritism, why studentsperceived courses as their most or least favorite, student course achievement, and if these wereengineering courses, required courses, and/or STEM courses, . We developed the following research questions:RQ1: How do engineering students’ motivations to learn compare between their least and most favoritecourses?RQ2: What are engineering students’ least and most favorite courses?RQ3: What do engineering students identify as elements that influence their decisions that a course istheir least or most favorite?RQ4: What is the relationship among course favoritism, motivation to learn, and grade attainment? We used a cross-sectional exploratory study, and a mixed methods approach gathering bothquantitative and qualitative data. We selected items from the Motivated Strategies for LearningQuestionnaire (Pintrich, Smith, García, & McKeachie, 1993), developed a standard demographicssurvey and free response items associated with course favoritism. The lead advisor in a College of Engineering emailed undergraduate students to participate in ourresearch. The email went to over 500 students, and 82 fully completed our survey. Because our researchwas exploratory, we determined the sample was sufficient to answer our research questions. Our preliminary analysis revealed several significant relationships.RQ1: Students displayed significantly greater motivation for their most favorite course compared to theirleast favorite (t(83) = 9.65, p< .01). Significant positive correlations (p < .05) occurredamong perceived levels of learning, course performance (grade), and mastery learning in the most favoritecourse. Significant positive correlations emerged between level of learning and performance orientationfor learning in the least favorite course. In our full article we will provide much greater details of our quantitative and qualitative dataand the associated implications.

Nadelson, L., & Hardy, K. K., & Yang, D. (2015, June), I Like Therefore I Learn! Engineering Student Motivation to Learn in Their Least and Most Favorite Courses Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24207

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