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Reactions from First-year Engineering Students to an In-depth Growth Mindset Intervention

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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

First-year Programs Division: Best Papers

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Emily Dringenberg Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Dringenberg is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Ohio State University. She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering (Kansas State '08), a MS in Industrial Engineering (Purdue '14) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education (Purdue ’15). Her research is focused on decision-making within the context of engineering design. She is working to leverage engineering education research to shift the culture of engineering to be more inclusive of diverse individuals and more in alignment with current research on decision-making. With a focus on qualitative research methods, she is working to better understand the ways in which undergraduate engineering students experience design and ill-structured problem solving. Her interests also include neuroscience, growth mindset, engineering ethics, and race and gender in engineering. In general, Dr. Dringenberg is always excited to learn new things and work with motivated individuals from diverse backgrounds to improve engineering education.

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Amena Shermadou Ohio State University

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Amena Shermadou is an Engineering Education graduate student at The Ohio State University. She received her Bachelors and Masters in Biomedical Engineering from Wright State University, in Dayton, Ohio. Her experience with teaching first-year engineering students has led to research interests in curriculum development, student empowerment and the development of holistic engineers through the collaboration with engineering stakeholders.

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Amy Rachel Betz Kansas State University

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Dr. Amy Betz is an Assistant Professor and the director of the Multiphase Microfluidics Laboratory at Kansas State University. She received her PhD from Columbia University and her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the George Washington University. Her research aims to acquire new fundamental understanding of phase-change processes. She is passionate about research, education, and mentoring. She is also committed to creating a more inclusive engineering culture.

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Beliefs about the nature of intelligence have been identified as a key lever for several aspects critical to academic behavior, such as motivation, beliefs about effort, and responses to challenges. Carol Dweck provides a dichotomous framework for beliefs about intelligence: most individuals tend to believe that either intelligence is something static that remains constant for an individual (fixed mindset), or that intelligence is malleable and changes with focus and practice (growth mindset). Understanding the role that these beliefs play in the experiences of students provides insight into the ways in which they may be motivated, whether or not they believe that sustained effort is fruitful, and whether or not they persist in the face of challenges.

Research has shown that interventions that teach students about growth mindset can impact the beliefs that individuals hold, at least on a short time scale. However, less is known about the more nuanced reactions of individuals when they are asked to engage specifically with the topic of growth mindset over a longer time period. This study contributes to this area of research by addressing the following research question: How do first-year engineering students react to an in-depth growth mindset intervention?

In order to address this question, two of the authors formed a Mindset focus group consisting of eight first-year engineering students. This focus group met five times over the course of a semester to discuss their reading of and reaction to Dweck’s popular 2006 Mindset book. Students’ written reflections captured their reaction to the learning experience, and this data was subjected to thematic analysis. Significant findings include the use of growth mindset as a tool to reflect and unpack past experiences, especially with respect to their personal experiences, the resulting behavior, and the role of external influences. Growth mindset proved to be a useful lens to reconsider past interpretations of experiences and project forward on possible changes towards a growth mindset. Students understood that growth mindset was not an all or nothing switch to be flipped.

These findings are useful for educators interested in promoting productive beliefs about the nature of intelligence. Future work in this area will include an exploration of how these beliefs change over the undergraduate experience and the development of concrete strategies for students to begin to implement growth mindset within an engineering education context.

Dringenberg, E., & Shermadou, A., & Betz, A. R. (2018, June), Reactions from First-year Engineering Students to an In-depth Growth Mindset Intervention Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30917

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