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Self Efficacy Beliefs Of First Year Engineering Students: In Their Own Words

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Knowing Our Students I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1112.1 - 11.1112.14



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Paper Authors


Mica Hutchison Purdue University

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Mica A. Hutchison is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department Engineering Education and the Department of Chemistry with research interests focused on engineering education and the retention of engineering students. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Idaho in 2002. Her research is directed by Dr. George M. Bodner and Dr. Deborah K. Follman.

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Deborah Follman Purdue University

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Deborah K. Follman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 1994 and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 2000. Her research interests include engineering education and gender equity, specifically regarding self-efficacy, issues of gender on student cooperative learning teams, and curriculum development.

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George Bodner Purdue University

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George M. Bodner is the Arthur E. Kelly Professor of Chemistry, Education and Engineering at Purdue University, where he is head of the Division of Chemical Education in the Department of Chemistry and a member of the faculty of the newly constituted Department of Engineering Education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Self-Efficacy Beliefs of First-Year Engineering Students: In Their Own Words


Numerous studies have used quantitative self-efficacy measures to predict the choices, achievement, and interests of undergraduate engineering students. Self-efficacy theorists, however, argue that a discovery-oriented, qualitative approach is required to better understand the sources and cognitive processing of students’ self-efficacy beliefs - their beliefs about their abilities to complete the tasks that they deem necessary to achieve a desired outcome. This study has therefore employed qualitative measures to investigate the self-efficacy beliefs of first-year engineering students enrolled in ENGR 106, Engineering Problem-Solving and Computer Tools, at Purdue University. Here, findings based on the phenomenographical analysis of one-on-one interviews with nine students enrolled in the course in the fall of 2004 are presented. These findings provide insight into how aspects of the course environment influence the formation of first-year engineering students’ efficacy beliefs. Results demonstrate the susceptibility of first- year engineering students’ self-efficacy beliefs to the influence of social comparisons. Descriptions of how students make social comparisons, including the logical progression from a specific experience through the modification of confidence in success, are offered.


As engineering educators become increasingly aware of the demand for a diverse engineering workforce of the future, retention issues plaguing the field have drawn added attention. Focus has therefore been placed on the choices, achievement, and interests of undergraduate engineering students. Researchers have suggested that students’ choices to pursue and persist in engineering, and their achievement and interest in the field, are significantly influenced by their engineering self-efficacy beliefs – their confidence in their abilities to perform the tasks that they deem necessary to succeed in the field.1, 2

The richness of the literature surrounding the assessment of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students’ self-efficacy beliefs and the relationship of those beliefs to persistence, 3-10 achievement, 3, 4, 11, 12 and interest3, 11-14 in the fields is in stark contrast to the lack of investigation into the heuristics with which students form specific efficacy beliefs. The literature has provided educators with reliable efficacy assessment tools1, 15, 16 and clear descriptions of the predictive power in the link between positive self-efficacy beliefs and increased persistence, achievement, and interest. This important body of research has made possible the identification of students who are likely to struggle in the face of obstacles and potentially leave the field of engineering. These students are the most important audiences for intervention strategies. The development of successful intervention strategies relies on understanding what can be done to promote positive self-efficacy beliefs among students, however, there is little research to draw from in this area. The first step towards addressing this issue entails explaining how students arrive at their efficacy beliefs.

Hutchison, M., & Follman, D., & Bodner, G. (2006, June), Self Efficacy Beliefs Of First Year Engineering Students: In Their Own Words Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--785

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015