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Student Perceptions of Project Mentoring: What Practices and Behaviors Matter?

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session


Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1122.1 - 24.1122.11



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Paper Authors


Marie C. Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, design education, and gender in engineering. She was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study expert teaching in capstone design courses, and is co-PI on numerous NSF grants exploring communication, design, and identity in engineering. Drawing on theories of situated learning and identity development, her work includes studies on the teaching and learning of communication, effective teaching practices in design education, the effects of differing design pedagogies on retention and motivation, the dynamics of cross-disciplinary collaboration in both academic and industry design environments, and gender and identity in engineering.

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Benjamin David Lutz Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Ben Lutz is a graduate student in the department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. His research interests include engineering design teaching and learning as well as school to work transitions for recently hired engineers.

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Student Perceptions of Project Mentoring: What Practices and Behaviors Matter?While significant work in recent years has begun exploring the structure and teaching practicesof project-based courses and design environments [e.g., 1, 2-6], less work has been done toexplore how students experience these practices. Data from studies that examine faculty beliefssuggest that faculty are intentional and passionate about their work in mentoring design teams,making choices to explicitly foster specific skills and promote students professionaldevelopment. But what do students experience? How do they perceive and respond to teachingand learning in project-based environments?To address this question, this paper presents initial findings from case studies conducted atmultiple universities. Each case includes observations of classroom practices, interviews withfaculty, and interviews or focus groups with students. Observation data was collected viadetailed field notes, while interview and focus group data was audio-recorded, transcribed, andcoded using qualitative analytic techniques [7, 8]. For each case, the observation data was usedto help guide the interviews and focus groups, which followed a semi-structured protocol.The paper presents findings from four cases studies, including both within-case and cross-caseanalysis. Preliminary analysis suggests that while students identify many of the same practicesfaculty describe (including coaching, role modeling, being pushed to explain plans anddecisions), they also tend to place more emphasis on the rapport they are able to develop withtheir mentors and the encouragement and affirmation they receive, but may be less aware of theways in which faculty mentors seek to protect students from both project failures and learningfailures. The findings thus provide rich insights into how student experience teaching andlearning in design environments, what they value about those experiences, and, perhaps mostimportantly, what dimensions of mentoring are more and less visible as meaningful supports.By better understanding students’ experiences and perceptions, the findings from this study canhelp design educators better address student needs, refine their project mentoring to moreeffectively achieve core learning goals, and support students’ professional development.1. Howe, S., Where are we now? Statistics on Capstone Courses Nationwide. Advances in Engineering Education, 2010. 2(1): p. 1-27.2. Howe, S. and J. Wilbarger, 2005 National Survey of Engineering Capstone Design Courses, in American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition2006: Chicago, IL. p. 21 pp.3. Wilbarger, J. and S. Howe, Current Practices in Engineering Capstone Education: Further Results from a 2005 Nationwide Survey, in ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference2006: San Diego, CA. p. T1E5-T1E10.4. Hixson, C.A., M.C. Paretti, and J.J. Pembridge. Capstone Design Faculty Motivation: Motivational Factors for Teaching the Capstone Design Course and Motivational Influences on Teaching Approaches. in American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition. 2012. San Antonio, TX.5. Pembridge, J.J. and M.C. Paretti. The Current State of Capstone Design Pedagogy. in American Society in Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exhibition. 2010. Louisville, KY.6. Pembridge, J.J. and M.C. Paretti. An Examination of Mentoring Functions in the Capstone Course. in American Society in Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exhibition. 2011. Vancouver, BC, Canada.7. Yin, R.K., Case Study Research: Design and Methods. 3rd ed2003, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.8. Miles, M. and A. Huberman, Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. 2nd ed1994, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Paretti, M. C., & Lutz, B. D. (2014, June), Student Perceptions of Project Mentoring: What Practices and Behaviors Matter? Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23055

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