June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Educational Research and Methods
26.1386.1 - 26.1386.18
Sources of Self-Efficacy in Undergraduate Engineering Researchers have shown that self-efficacy, the beliefs students’ hold about theircapabilities to perform given tasks, can influence students’ effort, achievement, and successfulmatriculation in school. Efforts have been made in the engineering community to examine self-efficacy in relationship to undergraduate engineering and persistence. The purpose of this studyis to examine how the engineering students form their efficacy beliefs. We investigateengineering students’ efficacy-relevant experiences to better understand the ways in which self-efficacy develops and the factors that students consider to be most influential. We also examinewhether men and women report similar sources of self-efficacy, as has been found in relatedwork. Undergraduate engineering students (N = 244) from two research-intensive universities inthe southeastern U.S. completed an online survey during the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semestersdesigned to assess beliefs about engineering. Participants responded to five open-endedquestions to identify events that affected their engineering confidence, people who encouraged orinspired them to be engineers, and to explain their feelings about doing engineering work.Responses were initially analyzed using codes based on the four theorized sources of self-efficacy: mastery experience, vicarious experience, social persuasion, and physiological states.First-level coding was used to summarize data; pattern coding was used to group summaries intospecific themes or constructs. Response patterns were then analyzed in terms of similarity,difference, and correspondence for men and women. Data were cross-checked by tworesearchers to ensure inter-rater reliability above .90. Engineering students described mastery experiences as the most common source of theirconfidence in their engineering skills followed by social persuasions. Students’ achievement inschool, such as obtaining good grades and passing engineering-related courses, boosted theirbeliefs in their abilities to pursue their engineering degrees. Students also mentioned receivingpositive messages from professionals, such as professors and mentors. Even the simple gestureof having friends ask for their help on engineering assignments boosted students’ confidence intheir engineering abilities. Vicarious experience via exposure to engineers, particularly those who were familymembers, influenced students’ beliefs that they could become engineers. Exposure toengineering through print material or television media was considered less influential. Exposureto positive role models increased students’ confidence in their abilities to succeed. Althoughstudents reported experiencing physiological states such as stress when doing tasks related toengineering, many described invigorating positive feelings about accomplishing engineeringtasks. This finding suggests that although students may find engineering challenging, theirperceived efficacy might benefit from the positive emotions they feel when engaged in theirwork. Men and women generally reported similar sources of engineering self-efficacy, contraryto findings reported elsewhere in related science, technology, and mathematics disciplines. Findings from this study complement previous research on the sources of engineeringself-efficacy by expanding the investigation to upper-level students with diverse majors andtailoring survey questions to specific types of information known to influence perceived efficacy(e.g. exposure to models who were engineers). Implications for creating efficacy-buildingexperiences related to engineering in K-12 and undergraduate education are discussed.
Usher, E. L., & Mamaril, N. A., & Li, C., & Economy, D. R., & Kennedy, M. S. (2015, June), Sources of Self-Efficacy in Undergraduate Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24723
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