Asee peer logo

Special Session: Assessing Morality, Identity, And Motivation In A First Year Materials Engineering Service Learning Course

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Special Session: Impacts of Service in Engineering

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1079.1 - 15.1079.19



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Trevor Harding California Polytechnic State University

visit author page

Trevor Harding, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of Materials Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, where he teaches courses in engineering design from a materials perspective. His research is focused on the educational outcomes associated with service learning and project-based learning with a particular focus on ethics education. He is also PI on several projects investigating the degradation of biomedical materials in physiological environments. Dr. Harding serves as Associate Editor of the journal Advances in Engineering Education, is chair of the Materials Division of ASEE, and is program chair of the Educational Research and Methods divisions of ASEE.

visit author page


Lynne Slivovsky California Polytechnic State University

visit author page

Lynne A. Slivovsky, Hood Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (Ph.D., Purdue University, 2001), has led service-learning initiatives both within the College of Engineering and across the university at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. In 2003 she received the Frontiers In Education New Faculty Fellow Award. Her work in service-learning led to her selection in 2007 as a California Campus Compact-Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Faculty Fellow for Service-Learning for Political Engagement. She currently oversees two multidisciplinary service-learning programs: the Access by Design project that has capstone students design devices for people with disabilities to participate in adapted physical activity and Organic Twittering that merges social media with sustainability.

visit author page


Nina Truch California Polytechnic State University

visit author page

Nina Truch is a lecturer in the Communication Studies and Materials Engineering departments at Cal Poly State University. She received the Cal Poly President's Community Service Award in 2005 for work pertaining to the Tsunami Relief Project.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Assessing Self-Efficacy, Identity, Morality, and Motivation in a First-Year Materials Engineering Service Learning Course Abstract

The Materials Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University offers a year- long, three quarter engineering service learning experience to 35 – 50 first-year students each year. The goals for the course sequence are 1) to provide students with the skills, relationships, and motivation to succeed within the department, and 2) to increase student satisfaction and retention. Over the three quarters, we provide students with several activities and design projects, culminating in a final service learning project with a local not-for-profit organization.

The intent of this paper is to present an initial assessment of the effectiveness of a service- learning experience on several outcomes including retention, student satisfaction, self-efficacy, motivation, identity, and moral reasoning. We utilized a number of psychological instruments to measure constructs which we believe underlie the course goals described above. Initial results indicate that the most significant gains experienced by the students were in their moral reasoning, school and peer attachment, and design and self-directed learning self-efficacy. We also observed that retention of students at the end of the year was strongly predicted by satisfaction with the experience and learning self-efficacy. Satisfaction with the course was in turn strongly predicted by students’ gains in intrinsic motivation, positive interactions with their service learning community partners, and the quality of their classroom interactions with peers and faculty.


In the report The Engineer of 2020 from the National Academy of Engineering,1 leaders within the engineering education community propose a new vision for undergraduate engineering education that is focused on providing students with attributes such as creativity, agility, ethical reasoning, leadership, and autonomous thinking in addition to the traditional analytical and design skills already present in engineering curricula. To achieve this vision, it seems probable that new approaches to teaching will be necessary. Service learning has been identified as one such approach.2

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, service learning is “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities”.3 Service learning has been shown to benefit students with knowledge acquisition,4 cognitive development5, commitment to social justice,6 socio-moral development7 and self-efficacy.6 Given these generally positive results, service learning would seem to be an attractive approach to providing students with the attributes described above.

Engineering education seems well suited to service learning given both the project-oriented nature of the discipline and the place of service to society as a fundamental aspect of engineering professionalism. Though there have been successful applications of service learning within engineering, most notably the EPICS program at Purdue,8 relatively little attention has been paid

Harding, T., & Slivovsky, L., & Truch, N. (2010, June), Special Session: Assessing Morality, Identity, And Motivation In A First Year Materials Engineering Service Learning Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16185

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: © 2010 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