Asee peer logo

Improving Engineering Student Preparedness, Persistence, and Diversity Through Conative Understanding

Download Paper |


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 3: Diversity and Multicultural Influences in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.915.1 - 26.915.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Elizabeth A Adams Chandler Gilbert Community College

visit author page

Residential Engineering Faculty at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

visit author page


Claire Louise Antaya Dancz Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Ph.D. Candidate in Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University

visit author page


Amy E. Landis Arizona State University

visit author page

Dr. Landis joined ASU in January 2012 as an Associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. She began her career as an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, after having obtained her PhD in 2007 from the University of Illinois at Chicago under the supervision of Dr. Thomas L. Theis. She has developed a research program in sustainable engineering of bioproducts. Her research ranges from design of systems based on industrial ecology and byproduct synergies, life cycle and sustainability assessments of biopolymers and biofuels, and design and analysis of sustainable solutions for healthcare. Since 2007, she has lead seven federal research projects and collaborated on many more, totaling over $7M in research, with over $12M in collaborative research. At ASU, Dr. Landis continues to grow her research activities and collaborations to include multidisciplinary approaches to sustainable systems with over 60 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Landis is dedicated to sustainability engineering education and outreach; she works with local high schools, after school programs, local nonprofit organizations, and museums to integrate sustainability and engineering into K-12 and undergraduate curricula.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Improving engineering student preparedness, persistence, and diversity through conative understandingEngineering teaching strategies that engage students are desperately needed to recruit, retain, andprepare students in STEM fields to address challenges facing the 21st Century. Thus, this paperexplores the integration of conative awareness into the engineering curriculum which will enableengineering programs to improve students’ preparedness and subsequently retention in STEMfields. As we better prepare and engage students, we will retain a more diverse set of students tobe successful engineers.In engineering it is cognitive skills that are the most highly valued and consistently rewarded.However, the mind consists of three separate domains: cognitive, affective and conative. Thecognitive domain houses learned information, or a person’s knowledge and skills. The affectivedomain houses emotional responses to this learned information and determines such things aspersonality, values, and motivation. The conative domain houses striving instincts and describeshow people most naturally approach challenging situations.Engineering typically loses 40% of students after the first year; while the percentage of womenin undergraduate engineering programs rarely tops 20% (with the exception of bioengineering,estimated from enrollment and degrees award from NSF NCES). According to the President’sCouncil of Advisors on STEM, in order to increase diversity and retention of women andminorities in STEM fields, educators must better engage students in their education and give allstudents the tools to excel. Conative awareness focuses on students’ strengths as opposed to theirweaknesses or their differences. This awareness creates an environment of student centeredlearning. By understanding innate problem solving skills, students can perform more effectivelyby working in harmony with their talents rather than against them, and this information can beespecially impactful in retention of women and underrepresented students. Introducing theconcept of conation at the freshman level is intended to assist students with forming strongrelationships, building confidence, and enhancing understanding of individual innate strengths toenable them to persist and succeed in engineering programs.This study analyzes the effectiveness of teaching conative awareness to students in first yearcommunity college engineering classes as well as first year engineering classes at a largeresearch university. The intent of integrating conation into freshman classes is to improvestudents’ understanding of their individual behavioral strengths and thereby increase retentionand persistence in engineering. Specifically, this paper describes a method for integratingconation into freshman engineering classes. The method includes an online conative assessment,in-class activities created to illustrate conative behavior related to engineering tasks, practicingconative awareness through class projects, and reflective writing to encourage students tocritically think about conative awareness for future classes, activities, and careers. Theeffectiveness of the methods described herein were evaluated through the use of surveys andinterviews with faculty and students. Finally, this paper discusses challenges, successes, andoutcomes realized from integrating conation into freshman classes.

Adams, E. A., & Dancz, C. L. A., & Landis, A. E. (2015, June), Improving Engineering Student Preparedness, Persistence, and Diversity Through Conative Understanding Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24252

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: © 2015 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