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Impact of Non-Cognitive Factors on First-Year Performance

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Student Success III: Affect and Attitudes

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Ryan R. Senkpeil Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ryan Senkpeil is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education at Purdue University who's research is focused on non-cognitive factors that impact engineering student performance and developing interventions to improve students' non-cognitive factors.

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Edward J. Berger Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Edward Berger is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education and Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, joining Purdue in August 2014. He has been teaching mechanics for nearly 20 years, and has worked extensively on the integration and assessment of specific technology interventions in mechanics classes. He was one of the co-leaders in 2013-2014 of the ASEE Virtual Community of Practice (VCP) for mechanics educators across the country.

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This research paper describes the study of non-cognitive factors and their impact on student academic outcomes, including consideration of previous academic performance. The connection between prior academic performance factors, such as high school GPA and standardized test scores, and the performance of first year engineering students (as measured by GPA) has been well established. While it has been shown that up to 45% of the variation in first year student performance can be explained by a combination of high school GPA and standardized test scores, this still leaves over half of the variation unaccounted for. Some of this variation may be accounted for by a series of non-cognitive factors. A non-cognitive inventory was created using the 10-Item Big Five Survey, the Short Grit Survey, and two subscales from the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (Test Anxiety and Time and Study Environment). Data was collected using this survey from freshman and sophomore engineering students at a large, public research university in the Midwest. Using hierarchical multiple regressions, students’ first year grades were regressed onto their previous academic performance as well as their scores in the non-cognitive inventory. Initial results indicate that the inclusion of non-cognitive factors alongside previous academic performance improved the predictability of students’ first year GPA by an additional 16 percentage points compared to a model that only included previous performance. The paper suggests both a theoretical grounding for this result, as well as possible implications for student support services.

Senkpeil, R. R., & Berger, E. J. (2016, June), Impact of Non-Cognitive Factors on First-Year Performance Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25545

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