June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Educational Research and Methods
Demand for diverse, well-qualified engineers in the United States is higher than ever, and yet, recent research shows that a majority of engineering undergraduates are undecided about whether to enter the engineering profession, even in the months leading up to graduation. From the engineering education and career development literature, it is known that interest in other fields accounts for some diversion of engineering graduates from engineering careers. Students’ lack of confidence in their ability to obtain and succeed in engineering positions, and other incorrect or misleading assumptions about the engineering career search, are partially responsible as well.
To better understand these issues, a longitudinal, mixed-methods study about engineering students’ career decision-making funded by the National Science Foundation has been undertaken. The study is grounded in Eccles’ expectancy-value theory, which conceptualizes engagement in a task (in this case, the career search) as a function of expectancies of success and four subjective task values: (1) attainment value, the perceived importance of engaging in the task, (2) intrinsic value, the perceived enjoyment of engaging in the task, (3) utility value, the perceived benefit of engaging in the task, and (4) cost value, the perceived consequences of engaging in the task. The focus of this research paper is on the development and validation of survey measures to capture engineering students’ expectancy-value beliefs related to their post-undergraduate career search, whether for jobs and/or graduate school. Such measures could be used by researchers, career services professionals, and educators to identify and address causes of problematic career indecision among engineering undergraduates through targeted interventions.
The expectancy-value measures designed for this study were piloted as part of a survey of 300 engineering juniors and seniors at a large, southwestern public university in August and September of 2016. Exploratory factor analysis with varimax rotation was applied on 27 items which produced six unique factors: two factors related to expectancies of success (expectancies of success for developing plans for one’s career pathway, and expectancies for success for obtaining a post-undergraduate job or graduate school offer) and four factors consistent with the four components of subjective task values in EVT. Of the 27 items, three items related to attainment value and one item related to utility value were modified slightly in the hopes of increasing their respective factor loadings. All 27 items are currently being re-tested in a survey of engineering juniors and seniors at six universities nationwide (expected sample size: 1,500) from September through November of 2016. Results of the exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and reliability analyses for the final data set will be presented in the full paper. Since the study for which these measures were created is longitudinal, plans to include these measures in future models of engineering seniors’ attainment of a first post-undergraduate position will also be discussed.
Brunhaver, S. R., & Carrico, C., & Matusovich, H. M., & Sama, M., & Abhyankar, R., & Streveler, R. A., & Sheppard, S. (2017, June), Measuring Students' Subjective Task Values Related to the Post-Undergraduate Career Search Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28657
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