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Identifying Sources of Information That Students Use in Deciding Which Engineering Major to Pursue

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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

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 16: That Important Decision - Which Engineering Major?

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.877.1 - 26.877.16



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Paper Authors


Héctor Enrique Rodríguez-Simmonds Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

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Raised in South Florida, born in Mexico. Half Colombian and half Mexican; proud Mexilombian. Héctor is currently pursuing an MS in Computer Engineering and a PhD in Engineering Education, both from Purdue University. His research interests are in investigating the LGBTQ+ community with relation to STEM. He's an avid videographer, eater of tasty food, moped enthusiast, and user/tweaker of computers.

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Juan David Ortega-Alvarez Universidad EAFIT, Medellin, Colombia - Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN Orcid 16x16

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Juan David Ortega Álvarez is an assistant professor at Universidad EAFIT and served as the Head of the Process Engineering Department from 2010 to 2014. He holds an MS in Process Engineering and Energy Technology from Hochschule Bremerhaven (Germany) and is currently enrolled as a first-year graduate student in the Engineering Education Doctoral Program at Purdue University. Before his full-time appointment with EAFIT, he served as Engineering Director for a chemical company for 7 years. His research interests are focused on the practice and teaching of process design, simulation and control and also on faculty and institutional development through engineering education research.

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S. Zahra Atiq Purdue University

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S. Zahra Atiq is a first-year PhD student at the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Forman Christian College (A Chartered University), Lahore - Pakistan. Her research interests include: computer science education specifically on teaching computer programming to undergraduates and how to improve their learning experiences. She is also interested in looking at studying student behavior and performance in online learning environments specifically MOOCs.

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Stephen R Hoffmann Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Stephen R. Hoffmann is the Assistant Head of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, with responsibilities for the First-Year Engineering Program.

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Identifying sources of information that students use in deciding which engineering major to pursueThis research explores the sources of information used by first-year students in deciding whichengineering discipline to pursue. The purpose of this study is two-fold: (1) to understand howstudents make an informed decision of which engineering major to pursue and (2) to helpadministration improve the resources provided to students based on this information. The studyis framed within the first-year engineering population of a large Midwestern university.In previous programmatic assessments and student surveys, students identified “Self-LedExploration of Engineering Disciplines” (SLE) as the single most important source ofinformation in choosing a major. SLE is a broad, ill-defined term, and different students mayinterpret the idea differently; we have developed a qualitative study to investigate how studentsperform self-led exploration. Interview data and the theoretical framework of Eccle’s expectancyvalue theory are used to make sense of the various concepts regarded as important to thestudents.We conducted individual interviews with a small sample of students (chosen to be representativeof the entire student population in terms of gender and nationality). The Constant ComparativeMethod is then used to analyze data gathered from the interviews to identify themes andcategories and compare them with the original items in the survey.We hope that the insights and results provided by the students in this study will help programadministration improve first year engineering resources made available to students. This in turnwill help students make a better informed decision when choosing their major.

Rodríguez-Simmonds, H. E., & Ortega-Alvarez, J. D., & Atiq, S. Z., & Hoffmann, S. R. (2015, June), Identifying Sources of Information That Students Use in Deciding Which Engineering Major to Pursue Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24214

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