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Motivational Factors of Undergraduate Engineering Students in Introductory Non-technical Courses

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Undergraduate Peer Educators: Mentoring, Observing, Learning

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

ASEE Board of Directors

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Paper Authors


YunJeong Chang University of Virginia

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Dr. YunJeong (Eunice) Chang is a Research Scientist at the University of Virginia. She earned her PhD in Learning, Design, and Technology program from the University of Georgia. Her research interests involves supporting teaching and learning in higher education and designing online or blended learner-centered learning environments within STEM context.

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Rider W. Foley University of Virginia

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Dr. Rider W. Foley is an assistant professor in the science, technology & society program in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia. He is the principal investigator at University of Virginia on the ‘4C Project’ on Cultivating Cultures of Ethical STEM education with colleagues from Notre Dame, Xavier University and St. Mary’s College. He is also the co-leader of the ‘Nano and the City’ thematic research cluster for the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University. Rider is a Research Collaborator with the Sustainability Science Education program at the Biodesign Institute. His research focuses on wicked problems that arise at the intersection of society and technology. Rider holds a Ph.D. in Sustainability from Arizona State University, and a Master's degree in Environmental Management from Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from University of New Hampshire. Before earning his doctorate, he has worked for a decade in consulting and emergency response for Triumvirate Environmental Inc.

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Undergraduates that enroll in engineering programs across the country are highly motivated in mathematical, computer coding, and materials courses that they believe will enable their future success. First-year students understand those as core courses that will enable them to perform professional engineering tasks after graduation. Further, their success within technical courses is largely linked to tests and problem sets that are based upon individual performance. However, employers want undergraduate engineers that have skills to diagnose and solve complex problems in team-based projects with colleagues and clients from diverse backgrounds. In alignment with industry expectations for professionalism, ABET established standards that speak to critical thinking, communication, and demonstrate other professional skills. To achieve the ABET standards, some engineering schools require courses that address issues of professionalization, ethics, and the broader societal context. Those courses often provide a gateway for a student’s collegiate experience and affect every incoming student’s sense of belongings in engineering. In parallel, many engineering courses are being redesigned with an emphasis on group-based learning strategies as a means to enhance students’ abilities in critical thinking, effective communication and collaboration. Yet, collaboration among students from diverse backgrounds often yields ineffective group work and it may diminish a student’s intrinsic motivation, interests, and even learning performance. Negative group-based interactions and learning experiences may further disadvantage students from historically underrepresented backgrounds in non-technical courses that emphasize group work, communication, and professionalism. Thus, it is critical to create an inclusive learning environment that will engage all students from diverse backgrounds by improving the quality and efficacy of group-based projects. However, there is a paucity of research into the factors that may affect first year engineering students’ motivation and interests, specifically in non-technical courses. Based on the Keller’s ARCS learning motivation model, this research seeks to describe both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that affect student motivation. Data is gathered from a mandatory course at one engineering school with 380 students enrolled in 9 discussion sections in the form of pre- and post-surveys, classroom observations, and interviews with instructors and students. This research paper will share the initial results from this study as well as the design of discrete interventions to affect changes in motivation.

Chang, Y., & Foley, R. W. (2018, June), Motivational Factors of Undergraduate Engineering Students in Introductory Non-technical Courses Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30826

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