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Public vs. Private, Large vs. Small: Significant Differences in Student Affective Experience

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1025.1 - 24.1025.17



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Paper Authors


Denise Wilson University of Washington

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Denise Wilson received the B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Stanford, CA, in 1988 and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, in 1989 and 1995, respectively. She received the M.Ed. from the University of Washington in 2008. She is currently an Associate Professor with the Electrical Engineering Department, University of Washington, Seattle, and she was previously with the University of Kentucky, Lexington, in a similar position from 1996 to 1999. Her research interests in engineering education focus on the role of belonging, self-efficacy, and other non-cognitive factors on success and persistence. She is also managing director of Coming Alongside, a non-profit environmental health services organization.

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James J. Pembridge Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univ., Daytona Beach

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Caitlin H. Wasilewski Seattle Pacific University

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ASEE  2014:    ERM  (Educational  Research  and  Methods)  Division   Public vs. Private, Large vs. Small Significant Differences in Student Affective ExperienceNon-cognitive factors such as belonging, support from others, emotional engagement, andoverall affect in the academic experience are gaining significant research interest due to the rolethese factors play in success, fulfillment, persistence, and other long term holistic outcomes inthe career of an engineer. The small private university has long been presumed and oftenproven to provide the student with a more close knit and supportive community than a largepublic university. In this study, we look at differences in non-cognitive measures expressed bytwo engineering student populations, one at a large public university in the pacific northwest andthe other a small private institution in the southeast. Both student populations are in their firstyear of study in their respective engineering majors. The measures we compare between thesetwo student populations include: • Self-efficacy: is defined as the self-appraisal of ability to master a task including judgments about ability to accomplish a task as well as confidence in domain-specific skills needed to perform that task. • Task value: refers to a student’s evaluation of how interesting, important and useful a task is and includes reasons why a student is participating in a task and a student’s perceptions of the course material in terms of interest, importance, and utility. • Peer support: refers to a student’s perception of support from peers. • University Belonging: measures a student’s sense of the community and friendliness at the university. • Behavioral Engagement (Inattention): refers to how well students report paying attention in their classes and lab/study groups. • Behavioral Engagement (Participation): measures how students think about their participation in class discussions in their classes and lab/study groups.Students at the small private university reported a greater sense of belonging to the overalluniversity than at the large public institution but less peer support than at the public institution.This result may reflect the fact that the tight-knit community within the private institutionprovides a sense of belonging that reduces the need to rely on peers for support and belonging.Interestingly, students reported differently for different measures of behavioral engagement.While the private university students reported greater participation than public universitystudents, they reported more inattention, which makes for an interesting and unexpected contrast.These results and others related to the way students report their affective experience, betweenpublic and private university environments and between those students who choose to persist andthose who do not will be summarized in this paper. Particular attention is paid to differences inthe student experience that are likely to influence both short and long term persistence inengineering careers.  

Wilson, D., & Pembridge, J. J., & Wasilewski, C. H. (2014, June), Public vs. Private, Large vs. Small: Significant Differences in Student Affective Experience Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22958

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