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Student Descriptions of Self-Regulated Learning: A Qualitative Investigation of Students’ Reflections on Their First Semester in Engineering

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2017 FYEE Conference


Daytona Beach, Florida

Publication Date

August 6, 2017

Start Date

August 6, 2017

End Date

August 8, 2017

Conference Session

WIP: Student Success & Development - Focus on Self-Efficacy

Tagged Topics

Diversity and FYEE Conference - Works in Progress Submission

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Paper Authors

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Kayla Nicole Arnsdorff

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Ashley Tingting Chen


Rachel McCord Ellestad University of Tennessee, Knoxville Orcid 16x16

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Rachel McCord is a a Lecturer and Research Assistant Professor in the Engineering Fundamentals Division at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She received her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her research interests include the impact of metacognitive and self-regulated learning development on engineering student success, particularly in the first year.

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Steffen Peuker California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Dr. Steffen Peuker holds the James L. Bartlett, Jr. Assistant Professor position in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the California State University in San Luis Obispo. He is teaching courses, including laboratories, in the HVAC concentration and mechanical engineering including first-year courses. Dr. Peuker's educational research focuses on increasing student retention and success in engineering through implementation of a student success focused approach in introduction to engineering courses. In addition, his work in engineering education focuses on collaborative learning, student-industry cooperation, and developing innovative ways of merging engineering fundamentals and engineering in practice and research. He can be reached at

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This work in progress paper summarizes initial work conducted to understand how students discuss their self-regulated learning skills through an end of semester reflective assignment. Many students enter the engineering disciplines unprepared to be successful in the rigors of engineering academia. Engineering student retention continues to be a significant area of research, partially due to lack of academic preparation or skill when entering a higher education institution. One theoretical framework that describes the needed skills to successfully progress through higher education is self-regulated learning. Self-regulated learning (SRL) is the process that a learner goes through to enact and sustain cognitive functioning, behaviors, and metacognitive functioning to reach a set goal or goals. SRL is a complex process that includes the learner’s beliefs about their own learning, motivations, pre-existing knowledge, and cognitive and metacognitive skills. It is a commonly held belief in education that the most effective students are the students who have a high level of awareness about their own knowledge level and take control of their own learning processes; these students are referred to as self-regulated learners. Though there are many different perspectives that provide different views of SRL, in general SRL theorists “view students as metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning process.” As part of a first year seminar course for engineering students at [school], students are asked to complete weekly reflective assignments relating the week’s topic to their own practice as a student. At the end of the semester, students are asked to complete a summarizing reflective assignment where they look at their growth as a learner over the academic term. Specifically, students are asked to define what a highly skilled engineering student would look like, to define their current status as an engineering student, and to discuss ways in which to close the gap between the two definitions. Using the framework of self-regulated learning, our research team has begun coding the end of semester reflective assignments to understand how students discuss their self-regulation. In this work in progress paper, we will discuss initial results of the qualitative coding. Specifically, we will focus on defining themes in how students talk about their motivation during and after one semester as an engineering student. Themes for motivation include the fear of missing out on opportunities, tangible and indefinite rewards, and the expectation of family members. This work seeks to help both researchers and practitioners understand levels of self-regulated learning ability in first year students in order to provide more effective classroom interventions for the development of SRL.

Arnsdorff, K. N., & Chen, A. T., & Ellestad, R. M., & Peuker, S. (2017, August), Student Descriptions of Self-Regulated Learning: A Qualitative Investigation of Students’ Reflections on Their First Semester in Engineering Paper presented at 2017 FYEE Conference, Daytona Beach, Florida.

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