New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
First-Year Programs Division Technical Session 7: Experiential Learning
This research paper investigates the relationship between the tasks that students take on in team projects and changes in their engineering confidence and self-efficacy during project-based learning experiences. Project-based learning has become a widely used pedagogy in engineering programs at many universities. Courses that involve a hands-on project give engineering students a “real world” experience and allow them to work in a setting that mimics a professional engineering environment: students typically work in small groups to design, build, and test while developing teamwork and communication skills. Hands-on project-based learning also provides students with opportunities to participate in solving realistic engineering problems, thereby allowing students to engage in a variety of different “mastery experiences” over the course of the semester. Beyond instilling a deeper content knowledge and aiding in the development of necessary skills, mastery experiences are one of the main contributors to self-efficacy, an individual’s belief about his/her capabilities to perform a task. Engineering confidence and self-efficacy both have important roles in a student’s ability to succeed in an engineering program, as they affect student’s decisions, motivation, retention, and career choices. However, it has been found that some students experience a negative or lack of change in engineering confidence and self-efficacy in team projects. We hypothesize that these differences may be because individuals complete different mastery experiences in team projects. The individual students’ characteristics, prior experiences, or learning goals may have a significant influence over the activities that a student chooses to take on. In this work, we investigate the different mastery experiences that students’ complete in a project and the reasons why they choose those tasks. Specifically, we are exploring the relationships between a student’s learning goals, team role, gender, time spent on various project tasks, and any subsequent changes in their engineering confidence or self-efficacy.
This study focuses on students enrolled in first-year project-based engineering courses at a large public university in the Midwestern United States. A mixed-methods approach was used for data collection and analysis. Pre- and post-course surveys were administered to collect information about student demographics and personalities and to measure the students’ engineering confidence and self-efficacy. Students were also asked to record the amount of time they spent each week on different tasks (e.g., project management, using CAD software, communication, and working on written reports) in an Activity Log. Post-course interviews were conducted to allow students to reflect about their team experiences during the semester.
Our results show that many students reported taking on certain roles because of time constraints or because they already were comfortable in that role. This could be a result of most students having performance-based learning goals and being more concerned with getting good grades in the course instead of learning new engineering-related skills. However, many students wished that they had played different roles on their teams during the semester. It seems that they recognize taking on roles with which that they are already familiar will not increase their engineering skills and abilities during the year.
Steiner, A., & Hirshfield, L., & Finelli, C. J., & Chachra, D. (2016, June), Investigating Task Choice in First-Year Engineering Team Projects Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25481
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