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Longitudinal Study of Changes in Student Motivation and Attitudes in Engineering

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session


Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Lisa Benson Clemson University

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Lisa Benson is a Professor of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University, with a joint appointment in Bioengineering. Her research focuses on the interactions between student motivation and their learning experiences. Her projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers and scientists, and their problem solving processes. Other projects in the Benson group include effects of student-centered active learning, self-regulated learning, and incorporating engineering into secondary science and mathematics classrooms. Her education includes a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Vermont, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Clemson University.

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Catherine McGough Spence Clemson University

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Catherine McGough is currently a graduate research assistant in Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. She obtained her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Clemson University in 2014. Her research interests are in undergraduate engineering student motivations and undergraduate engineering problem solving skill development and strategies.

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Daniel Michael Kuzbary

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Julia L. Sharp Colorado State University

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This research paper is part of a larger study that examines factors that contribute to engineering students’ academic achievement motivation, and how those factors affect problem solving. As engineering students gain knowledge, experience and skills in their disciplines, their motivation and attitudes towards their majors shift, which can then affect their attitudes and practices in their academic endeavors. To address the research question, “How do motivational attributes change over time as knowledge, experience and skills in one’s field develop?”, we initiated the analysis of longitudinal survey data and data on student enrollment over the past three years. Engineering students at a southeastern land grant institution completed a survey on their motivation and attitudes towards engineering during three academic years. The survey was developed to assess undergraduate engineering students’ motivations and how those motivations relate to their perceptions of problem solving and metacognitive processes. Constructs within the survey include goal orientation (goals with respect to their engineering courses, including performance approach and mastery approach), expectancy (beliefs about the likelihood of achieving success at a task), future time perspective (attitudes towards the future and perceived instrumentality of tasks in their current courses), and self-reported metacognitive activities. Survey responses collected early in students’ first semester of college were paired with survey responses two and three years later. Matched pairs t-tests were conducted to quantify changes in factors over time. Significant decreases (p<0.001) were observed for perceived instrumentality over time, with low to medium effect sizes. Significant decreases (p<0.05) were observed for performance approach, mastery approach, expectancy and perceptions of the future from 2013 to 2016 and from 2014 to 2016, with low effect sizes. Many of the motivational constructs that significantly decreased over time have been shown to be related to academic performance and learning gains; therefore, these findings have implications for engineering instructors and engineering education researchers. We are conducting ongoing research into engineering students’ achievement motivation to help instructors understand their students such that they can affect student learning in a positive way.

Benson, L., & Spence, C. M., & Kuzbary, D. M., & Sharp, J. L. (2017, June), Longitudinal Study of Changes in Student Motivation and Attitudes in Engineering Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28634

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