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"Is it Going to be on the Test?" An Introductory Study of the Factors Influencing Engineering Technology Student Motivation

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Issues in ET Education II

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.10.1 - 24.10.9



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Paper Authors


Leigh Sharma Southern Polytechnic State University

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Leigh Sharma is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Southern Polytechnic State University. Her research focuses on the impulsigenic personality traits (i.e., those traits that manifest in impulsive behavior); personality assessment; and the trait-behavior link. She teaches diverse classes, including Experimental Psychology and Quantitative Research Methods. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Iowa.

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Christina R. Scherrer Southern Polytechnic State University

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Christina Scherrer is an Associate Professor of industrial engineering technology at Southern Polytechnic State University. Her research interests are in the application of operations research and economic decision analysis to the public sector and in assessing education innovation. She teaches primarily statistics and logistics courses, at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She received her Ph.D. in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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“Is it Going to be on the Test?” An Introductory Study of the Factors Influencing Engineering Technology Student MotivationAnyone teaching college students has likely been subjected to questions such as, “Is this going tobe on the test?” or excuses for why students did not want to complete the homework assignmentsthat are so vital to student learning. In the experience of the faculty investigators on this projectas well as anecdotal evidence from colleagues, this lack of motivation seems to be on the rise.When faculty discuss this lack of motivation, there are often causes attributed without much datato back them. For example, our university has been trending from primarily non-traditionalstudents to a more typical college demographic and that is frequently suggested as the culprit.There is a rich body of literature on motivation theory, including motivation theory in the collegeclassroom. Much of that focuses on how students’ needs, expectations, etc. lead to motivationand what learning constructs can be used to increase motivation. Our study focuses on twospecific research questions. First, what demographic factors are most closely tied to high levelsof motivation? Second, are these factors different for engineering technology students than therest of the college population?There are many possible indicators of motivation, including completion rates on low point-valueassignments, attendance and punctuality to class, and rates of non-instructional cell phone/laptopuse during class. For this study, we focus on the completion rates and grades on low point-valueassignments. We believe investigating real-life performance, instead of student perceptions oftheir motivation, enhances the ecological validity of our project and decreases the potential forsocially desirable responding. The demographic factors we study are gender, age, race, GPA,SAT score, major, course withdrawal rate, and course classification (in-major, core, other). Wehave collected data on low point-value assignments from 25 classes (more than 600 students)across all of the schools at our university. We statistically analyze and present results on therelations among the demographic factors, grades on these low point-value assignments, and finalcourse grades for the entire sample as well as for the engineering technology students’subsample.We believe that these results will enhance the conversation around student motivation. Theyhave the potential to educate faculty in factors that are related to high motivation and to serve asa first step toward recognizing classes and/or assignments for which students may haveinherently low motivation. Additionally, focusing on real-life behavior instead of perceptions ofmotivation will provide faculty a baseline against which to judge improvements in studentperformance following interventions intended to increase motivation. In an era of increasedemphasis on student success rates, we believe anything that can be done to increase motivationor manage low motivation is of value.

Sharma, L., & Scherrer, C. R. (2014, June), "Is it Going to be on the Test?" An Introductory Study of the Factors Influencing Engineering Technology Student Motivation Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19899

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