Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Pre-College Engineering Education
Engineers are critical to sustain and increase the innovation needed to solve U.S. and world problems. Of the fastest growing jobs, 75% are based in science and mathematics, particularly with an engineering focus. But the U.S. is still short of qualified engineers to fill the jobs available. As part of the effort to increase the engineering pipeline this paper explores the influences that are important in college students’ decision to become engineering majors. Social cognitive career theory developed by Xeuli Wang (2013) is the basis of the study. According to this model, an individual’s decision to choose a STEM major is affected by a variety of high school experiences, determined largely by prior mathematics success. Those experiences are important in determining the individual’s goals and interests. In other words, an individual’s background and participation in certain activities affect their learning experiences, and subsequently their self-efficacy, and eventually their career choices. A survey about influences on their decisions to major in engineering was completed by 251 students at a major research university. Possible influences were categorized by type (e.g., informal activities/camps, formal schooling, standardized test scores, success/abilities in STEM courses, social, job opportunities). The survey was a 4-level Likert scale (0 = Not applicable, 1 = None at all, 2 = A little, 3 = A moderate amount, and 4 = A great deal) on which participants were asked how much a given factor influenced their decision. After answering questions about these influences, students were then asked to rank the factors in order of the level of influence. Descriptive statistics, particularly frequency tables, were used to determine the importance of the various factors. Findings include the following: 1) The greatest informal STEM influence was after school programs, as opposed to other opportunities such as summer activities or camps. 2) Of the students who said formal schooling had an influence, the most important was the teacher and student success in the course with 50.8% indicating their science teacher had a “great deal of influence” and 60.5% that their success in science had a “great deal of influence.” 3) Technology class greatest effects were hands-on experiences, success in the courses, and the teacher. 4) Of students who had pre-engineering or engineering classes, 56.8% said those classes had a moderate influence on their decisions to major in engineering; and 5) The greatest influences in pre-engineering or engineering classes were hands-on experiences and the teacher. Clearly, three factors were important for engineering majors in their science, technology, and engineering classes: hands-on experiences, great teachers, and student success in the class. Many dynamics affect students’ major choices, and understanding some of these may be helpful in fostering interest through these influences. This study shows that teachers and their provisions for hands-on experiences are important for engineering majors in one major university. If replication in other places finds agreement, university faculty can help K-12 teachers increase such opportunities.
Nite, S. B., & Rice, D. C., & Tejani, R. (2020, June), Influences for Engineering Majors: Results of a Survey from a Major Research University Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34825
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