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Predicting Graduate School Plans Based on Students’ Self-Assessed Engineering Knowledge and Skills

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Potpourri I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1167.1 - 22.1167.16



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Paper Authors


Hyun Kyoung Ro Pennsylvania State University

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Hyun Has been working as a graduate assistant on the Engineer of 2020 research grants that the Center for the Study of Higher Education received from the National Science Foundation at Penn State.

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Predicting Graduate School Plans Based on Students’ Self-assessed Engineering Knowledge and Skills U.S. production of STEM graduates who receive master’s and Ph.D. degrees hasremained mostly constant in the last 50 years, while many other countries are increasingproduction (National Science Board, 2010). With concern over the lack of domestic workforcein engineering graduate schools, studies have examined whether engineering seniors plan orintend to go to graduate school in engineering (e.g., Sheppard et al (2010)). However, there islittle research on what affects engineering undergraduates’ decisions regarding graduate schoolplans inside or outside engineering. Sheppard et al (2010) found that engineering seniorstudents with greater confidence in professional and interpersonal skills were less likely to headtowards engineering career or pursue engineering in graduate school. In this paper, I explorewhether and how students’ confidence in other important engineering skills (e.g., fundamentalskills) influences graduate school plans. Data for this study come from Prototype to Production (P2P), an NSF-funded, nationallyrepresentative, multi-institution, cross-sectional study of engineering education in the U.S.Analyses are based on responses from 2,264 seniors in 100 engineering programs (in 7disciplines) in 30 colleges of engineering during the 2009 spring and summer terms. This studyemploys Ordinal Logistic Regression to predict the probability of graduate school attendance,indicating each of the five ordered options (definitely won’t; probably won’t; not sure; probablywill; and definitely will). To measure the probability of graduate school attendance three yearsafter they graduate, three sub-scales are employed: 1) will be in graduate school to becomeengineering faculty; 2) will be in engineering graduate school to prepare for the profession; and3) will be in non-engineering graduate school (business, medicine, law, etc.). Independentvariables include students’ self-rating of engineering skills including fundamental skills, designskills, and professional skills (i.e., communication, leadership, and teamwork). In this study,fundamental skills are defined as applying math and science to engineering problems. This study examines whether engineering students’ self-rated engineering knowledge andskills predict the probability of their graduate school attendance, after controlling for studentbackground (gender, race, and academic achievement) and institutional type. Analyses revealthat academic GPA in engineering positively influences the probability of seniors’ graduateschool attendance inside and outside of engineering. Strong fundamental skills were positivelyrelated to the probability of students’ graduate school attendance to prepare to becomeengineering faculty as well as to work in engineering professions, but were negatively relatedwith the probability of graduate school attendance outside engineering. Engineering studentsmay choose other types of graduate school when they believe their fundamental skills are notcompetitive. Leadership and Teamwork skills also positively predicted preparing forengineering professions. In other words, engineering students who reported higher proficiencyin professional skills may be encouraged to continue to prepare for engineering professions. Thisfinding contrasts with that of Sheppard et al (2010) who questioned whether engineering studentsrecognize how their professional skills can be applied to engineering work. Results from thisstudy indicate that engineering students may be able to make connections between professionalskills and their plans to enter engineering fields. 1 ReferencesNational Science Board. (2010). Ch. 2: Higher Education in Science and Engineering Science and Engineering Indicators: 2010: National Science Foundation, 2.1–2.48.Sheppard, S., Gilmartin, S., Chen, H.L., Donaldson, K., Lichtenstein, G., Eris, V., Lande, M., & Toye, G. (2010). Exploring the Engineering Student Experience: Findings from the Academic Pathways of People Learning Engineering Survey (APPLES) (CAEE-TR-10- 01). Seattle, WA: Center for the Advancement for Engineering Education. Retrieved [date], from 2

Ro, H. K. (2011, June), Predicting Graduate School Plans Based on Students’ Self-Assessed Engineering Knowledge and Skills Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18488

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