New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Step-outs to Stars: Engineering Retention Framework Expectancy value theory1, a motivational theory that attempts to explain individuals’ choice of behavior based on their expectation of success and the value they place on the task or outcomes of the task, has been used to explain college major and career choice2,3. Past research with college students has shown the importance of interest (a measure of value)4, 5 and performance (a measure of expectancy)6 on individuals’ decisions to choose and/or to persist in a certain college major or career. The purpose of this work was to create a retention framework for engineering students using a student’s level of interest in engineering and performance during his or her first semester of college. This paper describes the analysis completed to create the framework and demonstrates its use investigating the relationship between gender and retention.
Level of interest in engineering was gathered by survey responses from first year engineering students at a large metropolitan research institution (n = 352 students (82% of the cohort)). First semester performance data were extracted from student records. Logistic regression was used to determine at what level of interest in engineering the likelihood of a student being retained in engineering decreased. Analysis showed there was no statistically significant difference in the likelihood of being retained for students with very high or high interest. There was a statistically significant difference in the likelihood of retention between students with very low, low or medium interest and those with high or very high interest. Thus the interest side of the framework was divided into two sections: “high interest” which included responses of high and very high, and “low interest” which included responses of medium, low and very low interest. The performance side of the framework was dichotomously divided at GPA = 3.0. The rationale for this is described in the paper.
After the four quadrant framework was created (high/low interest, GPA greater than 3.0/GPA below 3.0), the percent retention of male and female students in each quadrant was investigated (see Figure 1). Analysis showed a statistically similar retention rate for males and females in each quadrant except the quadrant with low interest and high GPA. In this quadrant the retention rate of females was much lower, thus showing that females who lack interest and were performing well were more likely to leave engineering than male students with similar interest levels and GPAs.
STEP-OUTS M (n=30) F (n=8) Retained in engineering 20% 25% Switched units 30% 25% Left university 50% 50% SEARCHER M (n=23) F (n=13) Retained in engineering 78% 46% Switched units 13% 46% Left university 9% 8%
STRUGGLERS M (n=79) F (n=23) Retained in engineering 63% 52% Switched units 14% 17% Left university 23% 30% STARS M (n=141) F (n=35) Retained in engineering 94% 94% Switched units 3% 6% Left university 3% 0%
Figure 1. Step-outs to Stars engineering retention framework for males (M) and females (F)
Since interest and performance are critical elements in many students’ decisions related to college major and career choice, the Step-outs to Stars engineering retention framework can be used to frame other research on retention. Also by understanding the number of students in each quadrant administers can better allocate resources to help improve retention.
References  Atkinson, J. W. (1964). An introduction to motivation. Oxford England: Van Nostrand.  Feather, N. (1982). Expectations and actions: Expectancy-value models in psychology: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc Inc.  Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy–value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 68-81.  Honken, N. B., & Ralston, P. (2013). Freshman engineering retention: A holistic look. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research, 14(2), 29-37.  Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. U.S.A.: Westview Press.  Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. M. (1997).
Honken, N., & Ralston, P. A., & Tretter, T. (2016, June), Step-Outs to Stars: Engineering Retention Framework Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25877
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