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Sources of Anxiety among Engineering Students: Assessment and Mitigation

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Student Success III: Affect and Attitudes

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Paul M. Yanik Western Carolina University

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Dr. Paul Yanik is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology at Western Carolina University. His areas of research include human-robot interactions, assistive devices, pattern recognition, machine learning, and engineering education.

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Yanjun Yan Western Carolina University Orcid 16x16

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Yanjun Yan received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Harbin Institute of Technology (China), and the M.S. degree in Applied Statistics and the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University. She is an assistant professor in engineering and technology at Western Carolina University. Her research interests are statistical signal processing, diagnostics, and particle swarm optimization.

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Sudhir Kaul Western Carolina University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kaul is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Western Carolina University. His research interests include Fracture Diagnostics, Structural Dynamics and Control, and Motorcycle Dynamics.

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Chip W. Ferguson Western Carolina University

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Chip Ferguson is the Associate Dean of the Kimmel School and Associate Professor of Engineering and Technology at Western Carolina University.

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Anxiety stemming from the challenges faced by engineering students is a strong predictor of academic performance. Such anxiety may lead to compromised student self-efficacy [1] manifesting itself as reduced motivation, concentration, or reasoning capability [2]. These symptoms often lead to a loss of confidence in engineering abilities and reduced commitment to engineering degree programs, resulting in lower retention [3]. Various studies have been conducted which analyze the direct effects of both academic and non-academic sources of anxiety in engineering programs such as curriculum requirements, academic readiness (e.g. study skills), personality type, and attitudes toward learning [4] as a means of improving future pedagogical strategies. Less common are studies that investigate the efficacy of timely interventions in response to self-reported vulnerabilities and concerns of engineering students. This paper presents data from practical efforts to identify and mitigate anxiety among these students. A group of twenty-six engineering and engineering technology students who were part of a scholarship program were asked to submit journal entries in which they reflected on their fears and anxieties related to their participation in their degree program. Prominent themes which emerged from student reflection included time management and its effects on academics and social activities, the likelihood of degree completion and success in engineering-specific coursework (e.g. senior capstone projects), and aspects of life following graduation such as handling accumulated debt and finding a job. As a cohort, the students participated in periodic vertically-integrated discussion groups with faculty mentors and their peers at multiple levels of seniority, and were introduced to university resources designed to address specific student needs. Results of a follow-on survey suggested that peer-to-peer discussions can be useful in alleviating anxiety on particular topics. It was also observed that the interactions facilitated by these group discussions are helpful in developing a sense of community and shared enthusiasm among the cohort.

[1] Carberry, A.R., Lee, H., Ohland, M.W. (2010). “Measuring Engineering Design Self-Efficacy.” Journal of Engineering Education, 99(1), pp. 71-79.

[2] Vitasari, P., Wahab, M.N.A., Othman, A., Herawan, T., Sinnadurai, S.K. (2010). “The Relationship between Study Anxiety and Academic Performance among Engineering Students.” Proc. International Conference on Mathematics Education Research 2010 (ICMER 2010), pp. 490-497.

[3] Sullivan, K., Davis, R. (2007). “Increasing Retention of Women Engineering Students.” American Society of Engineering Education, pp. 1-15.

[4] Bernold, L.E., Spurlin, J.E., Anson, C.M. (2007). “Understanding Our Students: A Longitudinal Study of Success and Failure in Engineering with Implications for Increased Retention.” Journal of Engineering Education, 96(3), pp. 263-274.

Yanik, P. M., & Yan, Y., & Kaul, S., & Ferguson, C. W. (2016, June), Sources of Anxiety among Engineering Students: Assessment and Mitigation Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25845

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