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Impact of Self-efficacy and Outcome Expectations on First-year Engineering Students’ Major Selection

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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

Degree Pathways and Cocurricular Experiences

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Baker A. Martin Clemson University

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Baker Martin is a graduate student in the Department of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University and teaches in the General Engineering Program as part of the first-year engineering curriculum. His research interests include choice and decision making, especially relating to first-year engineering students’ major selection. He earned his BS from Virginia Tech and his MS from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, both in chemical engineering.

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Marisa K. Orr Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Marisa K. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Engineering and Science Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity, diversity, and academic policy. Dr. Orr is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award for her research entitled, “Empowering Students to be Adaptive Decision-Makers.”

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Rachel McCord Ellestad University of Tennessee at Knoxville Orcid 16x16

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Rachel McCord is a a Lecturer and Research Assistant Professor in the Engineering Fundamentals Division at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She received her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her research interests include the impact of metacognitive and self-regulated learning development on engineering student success, particularly in the first year.

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Deciding on a major is one of the critical decisions first-year students make in their undergraduate study. Framed in Social Cognitive Career Theory, this work investigates differences between measures of self-efficacy and outcome expectations by students intending to pursue different engineering majors. Our results show that tinkering self-efficacy, experimental self-efficacy, and professional outcome expectations are statistically significantly different for students intending to pursue different majors. Students from Biomedical Engineering, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering have different average scores from at least one other group of students on at least one construct. Differences by gender are also explored, as well as student major changes, confidence in major choice, and the importance of both professional and lifestyle outcome expectations.

Martin, B. A., & Orr, M. K., & Ellestad, R. M. (2020, June), Impact of Self-efficacy and Outcome Expectations on First-year Engineering Students’ Major Selection Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34758

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