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Succeeding but Doubting: Effects of Gender on Performance and Self-perception in Early Engineering Courses

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jennifer Blue Miami University

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Jennifer Blue is an Associate Professor of Physics at Miami University. She works to give more people access to physics. Sometimes that’s reforming the curriculum for introductory classes, sometimes it’s working with K-12 science teachers, and sometimes it’s advocating for traditionally excluded populations, including women in STEM. Her website can be found here:

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Amy Summerville Miami University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Summerville is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Miami University. She earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Summerville is a social psychologist whose research examines how thoughts of "what might have been" affect emotion, motivation, and behavior. She is the PI of a grant from NSF's EEC division investigating new interventions in engineering education that utilize social cognitive psychology.

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Brian P. Kirkmeyer Miami University

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Brian Kirkmeyer is the Karen Buchwald Wright Senior Assistant Dean for Student Success and Instructor in the College of Engineering and Computing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His background includes BS, MS and PhD degrees in Materials Science and Engineering (specialization in polymers), the former from Purdue University and the latter two from the University of Pennsylvania. He has work experiences in automotive electronics (Delphi Automotive Systems) and consumer products (International Flavors and Fragrances) prior to his current role. He served on the executive committee of the ASEE Women in Engineering division from 2010 to present.

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Brielle Nikole Johnson

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Brielle Johnson is a graduate student in the Social Psychology program of the Department of Psychology at Miami University. She earned her B.S. from Grand Valley State University with a double major in Psychology and Sociology. Her research interests include issues related to social class and gender, as well as areas of existential psychology and counterfactual thinking.

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Succeeding but doubting: Effects of gender on performance and self-perception in early engineering courses

In two studies, we investigated gender differences in early engineering course performance and students thoughts about their own performance in the course. In Study 1, 120 declared or intended engineering majors (75 men & 45 women) enrolled in a required calculus-based physics course completed a series of surveys and provided permission for their instructor to release their final course grade. In an initial survey, participants reported their beliefs that intelligence is a stable and unchangeable trait, known as “entity theory”. After the first exam, participants reported their exam grade, their beliefs that they could successfully pass the course (efficacy), and their regret about their exam performance as it focused on both their emotional experience of self-blame and on their thoughts about how things might have been different. In Study 2, 96 engineering students (60 men & 36 women) enrolled in calculus or calculus-based physics completed the same set of surveys, with the addition of reporting their efficacy in the initial survey, before the first exam, and reporting entity beliefs after the first exam. In Study 1, compared to men, women reported the same entity theory beliefs, the same thoughts about what they might have done differently on the first exam, and the same final course grade. However, they had a lower exam 1 grade and lower efficacy and greater self-blame after exam 1. In Study 2, women and men did not differ significantly on exam or course performance or any beliefs about the course, although surprisingly, grade and gender interacted so that women with median exam grades felt marginally more self-blame about the exam than their male peers. Although women in engineering courses were ultimately equally successful as their male peers, they may experience more self-doubt during the semester.

Blue, J., & Summerville, A., & Kirkmeyer, B. P., & Johnson, B. N. (2018, June), Succeeding but Doubting: Effects of Gender on Performance and Self-perception in Early Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31027

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