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Moving from Quantitative to Qualitative Analysis to Capture the Development of Self-Directed Learning for a Cohort of Engineering Students

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Conference

2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015

ISBN

978-0-692-50180-1

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

15

Page Numbers

26.1173.1 - 26.1173.15

DOI

10.18260/p.24510

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/24510

Download Count

76

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Paper Authors

biography

Katherine C. Chen California Polytechnic State University

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Dr. Katherine C. Chen is Professor and Chair of the Materials Engineering department at the California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) State University, San Luis Obispo. Her degrees in Materials Science are from Michigan State University and MIT. She teaches a wide variety of different engineering courses and her research interests include diversity in STEM, lifelong learning, and informal education.

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Jonathan D. Stolk Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Roberta J Herter California Polytechnic State University

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Abstract

Moving  from  Quantitative  to  Qualitative  Analysis  to  Capture  the  Development  of  Self-­‐Directed  Learning  for  a  Cohort  of  Engineering  Students    In  efforts  to  understand  and  describe  the  development  of  self-­‐directed  learning  (SDL)  of  engineering  students,  two  universities  studied  cohorts  of  students  over  a  two-­‐year  period  using  quantitative  survey  data  and  qualitative  focus  groups  and  reflective  writing.  This  mixed-­‐methods  study  investigates  college  students’  SDL  skills,  attitudes,  and  beliefs  over  time,  beginning  with  the  start  of  their  first  year,  and  continuing  throughout  their  second  year  and  beyond.    Quantitative  data  on  SDL  competencies  were  gathered  from  validated  surveys  (e.g.,  AMS,  LOGO  II,  MAI  and  Learning  Inventory)  for  a  cohort  of  students  at  a  large  public  university,  and  the  data  were  compared  to  another  cohort  at  a  small  private  college.  Qualitative  data  were  collected  via  six  focus  group  sessions  with  varying  student  participation  over  time,  as  well  as  from  reflective  writing  exercises  administered  from  a  2nd  year  engineering  course.  The  qualitative  data  were  coded  for  indicators  of  SDL,  such  as  reflective  capacity,  help  seeking,  self-­‐assessment  of  performance  and  resilience.        While  some  significant  differences  in  the  quantitative  survey  data  were  measured  between  the  two  institutions,  the  resulting  data  showed  surprisingly  small  changes  in  SDL  competencies  over  the  two  years.    Analysis  of  qualitative  student  response  data,  however,  revealed  several  interesting,  new  aspects  to  self-­‐directed  learner  growth,  and  led  to  a  richer  picture  of  the  complexity  involved  with  student  SDL  development.    Qualitative  investigation  was  then  extended  into  the  third  year  of  the  cohort.    Specifically,  the  qualitative  analysis  revealed  a  complicated  interplay  of  student  perceptions  of  grades,  open-­‐ended  problems,  uncertainty  around  failure,  instructor  role,  career  goals,  and  professional  identity.  Students  lamented  the  way  that  open-­‐ended  work  offered  opportunities  for  professional  growth  but  did  not  always  positively  impact  their  grades.  Others  reported  tensions  stemming  from  the  need  to  maintain  appropriate  grade  point  averages  (GPAs)  and  their  own  desires  to  shift  from  grade  orientation  to  learning  orientation.  The  group  showed  varied  perceptions  about  the  role  of  the  instructor  to  their  growth  as  lifelong  learners  and  valued  those  professors  who  exhibited  industry  experience.  The  focus  groups  also  display  the  dynamics  of  students  reflecting  with  one  another  and  forming  their  own  individual  academic  and  professional  identities.  Some  articulated  that  the  opportunity  for  the  focus  group  afforded  them  a  chance  for  growth  in  metacognitive  capacity.    The  study  attempts  to  illustrate  how  student  goals,  priorities,  and  identities  as  developing  college  engineering  students  connect  with  aspects  of  curriculum,  instructor  pedagogy,  and  institutional  culture  and  constraints.    By  addressing  students’  relationships  to  curriculum,  instructor  and  learning  culture,  the  study  offers  valuable  insights  for  those  designing  engineer  programs  and  to  individual  instructors  interested  in  developing  the  self-­‐directed  learning  capacities  of  their  students.    

Chen, K. C., & Stolk, J. D., & Herter, R. J. (2015, June), Moving from Quantitative to Qualitative Analysis to Capture the Development of Self-Directed Learning for a Cohort of Engineering Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24510

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