June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Minorities in Engineering, Liberal Education/Engineering & Society, and Women in Engineering
22.1081.1 - 22.1081.13
Motivation makes a difference, but is there a difference in motivation? What inspires men and women to study engineering?Despite years of research and intervention, women continue to be underrepresented inengineering. Many scholars have pointed to differences in the ways men and women experiencetheir undergraduate education to suggest potential remedies. Yet it has become increasinglycertain that once women decide to become engineers, they are no more likely to leave than men,regardless of challenges faced in college. Indeed, engineering majors overall are more likely topersist than students in most other majors.How do we attract more women to engineering, or anyone for that matter? “It is important toremember that students are driven by passion, curiosity, engagement, and dreams,” Charles Vest,president of NAE, wrote. To address these questions, we examine engineering students’motivations to study engineering. Data were gathered as part of the Academic Pathways Study(APS), an extensive mixed-methods study of undergraduate engineering students’ experience. In-depth qualitative and quantitative data were gathered longitudinally from students at fourinstitutions, and cross-sectional survey data were gathered from a broad national student sampleto affirm certain aspects of engineering students’ experiences and perspectives, including studentmotivation. A selection of qualitative and quantitative findings will be included in this paper.Our findings reveal that there are some gender differences in motivation to study engineering,but there are also strong similarities. Intrinsic motivations – both the joys of doing and beingengineers – are strong for all students. The opportunity to make a positive difference in the worldis also a strong factor, followed by the promise of a financially rewarding career. Of much lesssignificance to both men and women are the influences of mentors and parents. Thesesimilarities stand in contrast to common perceptions that the ideal of service for the commongood is the domain of women, or that it is more often men who enjoy the rigorous study ofengineering.Though both men and women are strongly motivated to do the hands-on work they perceiveengineering to involve, this element of engineering appeared to have a greater influence on men.An engineering education introduces students to a broad array of activities, yet those who areless motivated by hands-on work appear to find other ways to engage and persist. Prior tocollege, however, students with a distinct impression of engineering may not realize the extent ofopportunities available.Women reported a greater influence from mentors than men. However, as noted above, mentormotivation appears to play a modest role in motivating all students. With regard to recruiting, itmay be that mentors simply aren’t there for girls and boys who are planning for college. A morepositive interpretation is that mentors exist, but serve as the “guides on the side” who introducestudents to activities and ideas that serve as key intrinsic motivators.In this paper, we will elaborate on these gender differences, but also discuss similarities in whatmotivates men and women and implications. Understanding motivation to study engineeringshould provide engineering educators with further insight into attracting a diverse and vibrantstudent body.
Kilgore, D., & Sheppard, S., & Atman, C. J., & Chachra, D. (2011, June), Motivation Makes a Difference, but is there a Difference in Motivation? What Inspires Women and Men to Study Engineering? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18816
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