Asee peer logo

Illuminating Contexts that Influence Test Usage Beliefs and Behaviors among Instructors of Fundamental Engineering Courses

Download Paper |


2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

Student Assessments and Tests

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods Division (ERM)

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Kai Jun Chew Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


Holly M. Matusovich Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

visit author page

Dr. Holly Matusovich is the Associate Dean for Graduate and Professional Studies in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech and a Professor in the Department of Engineering Education where she has also served in key leadership positions. Dr. Matusovich is recognized for her research and leadership related to graduate student mentoring and faculty development. She won the Hokie Supervisor Spotlight Award in 2014, received the College of Engineering Graduate Student Mentor Award in 2018, and was inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy of Faculty Leadership in 2020. Dr. Matusovich has been a PI/Co-PI on 19 funded research projects including the NSF CAREER Award, with her share of funding being nearly $3 million. She has co-authored 2 book chapters, 34 journal publications, and more than 80 conference papers. She is recognized for her research and teaching, including Dean’s Awards for Outstanding New Faculty, Outstanding Teacher Award, and a Faculty Fellow. Dr. Matusovich has served the Educational Research and Methods (ERM) division of ASEE in many capacities over the past 10+ years including serving as Chair from 2017-2019. Dr. Matusovich is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Advances in Engineering Education and she serves on the ASEE committee for Scholarly Publications.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This research paper illuminates the different contexts elicited by seven instructors who taught fundamental engineering courses when discussing their test usage beliefs and behaviors. Tests and exams are typically heavily used in fundamental engineering courses like statics, dynamics, thermodynamics, and other courses in various engineering disciplines. Understanding why engineering instructors heavily rely on tests to assess student learning in these courses is crucial in promoting use of more diverse types of assessments (portfolios, concept inventory, reflection-based practices, project-based practices, to name a few) and intentionality in terms of designing, administering, and interpreting tests. Conversations around why instructors make certain course decisions typically involve the contexts these instructors are situated in, emphasizing how important contexts are in terms of influencing decision-making in these courses. Illuminating some of these contexts can be helpful to further understand instructors’ beliefs and behaviors in course decision-making, specifically on heavily using tests in fundamental courses. We answered the research question: What are some notable contexts that influence instructors’ beliefs and behaviors to heavily use tests in their fundamental engineering courses? The data are collected as part of a larger multi-case study that explores test usage beliefs and behaviors of seven individual engineering instructors (seven cases). Multiple sources of data and evidence triangulate to shape the case profiles for these seven instructors, with contexts emerged as an important element of these profiles. Our findings show several key contexts discussed substantially by some of these seven instructors, though not all instructors discussed the same contexts. These contexts include the influence of inertia and peer pressure to continue using tests heavily and the need to assess individual student learning in courses with large enrollment classes, and limited autonomy for some instructors to make changes to assessment in the courses. These contexts show some intertwining characteristics to influence test usage among the participants. In addition, our findings support existing literature on inertia and course context and prominent contexts to influence course decision making, and this paper focuses on the heavy test usage as a form of course design decision.

Keywords: Test, exam, instructor, context, beliefs, behaviors

Chew, K. J., & Matusovich, H. M. (2023, June), Illuminating Contexts that Influence Test Usage Beliefs and Behaviors among Instructors of Fundamental Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--43454

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2023 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015