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The Changing Tides: How Engineering Environments Play A Role In Self Efficacy Belief Modification

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Knowing Our Students, Part 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1396.1 - 12.1396.19



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Paper Authors


Mica Hutchison Purdue University

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Mica A. Hutchison is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department Engineering Education and the
Department of Chemistry with research interests focused on engineering education and the
retention of engineering students. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the
University of Idaho in 2002 and her M.S. in Chemistry Education from Purdue University in 2006. Her research is directed by Dr. George M. Bodner and Dr. Deborah K. Follman.

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Deborah Follman Purdue University

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Deborah K. Follman is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 1994 and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 2000. Her research interests include engineering education and gender equity, specifically regarding self-efficacy, issues of gender on student cooperative learning teams, and curriculum development.

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George Bodner Purdue University

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George M. Bodner is the Arthur E. Kelly Professor of Chemistry, Education and Engineering at Purdue University, where he is head of the Division of Chemical Education in the Department of Chemistry and a member of the faculty of the newly constituted Department of Engineering Education.

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

The Changing Tides: How Engineering Environments Play a Role in Self-Efficacy Belief Modification


Self-efficacy beliefs are the beliefs people hold about their abilities to complete the tasks that they deem necessary to achieve success. Efficacy beliefs influence the choices people make, the effort they put forth, and the degree to which they persist in the face of obstacles. Attempts to understand how students shape their efficacy for learning are therefore invaluable to educators. Previously, we used qualitative measures to investigate the self-efficacy beliefs of first-year engineering students. That study revealed that early engineering students most frequently based their confidence in success on social comparisons – their perceptions of how their engineering abilities compared to those of their classmates. In an extension of that study, we have expanded our investigation to include nine second-year engineering students. One-on-one interviews with five women and four men are compared to discussions with first-year students. These comparisons have shed light on how students build and modify their efficacy beliefs as they advance in the engineering curriculum.

Second-year students were interviewed while enrolled in Chemical Engineering Calculations (CHE 205) during the fall of 2005 or the spring of 2006. CHE 205 is the first discipline-specific engineering course in the chemical engineering curriculum at Purdue University. Results, based on a phenomenographical analysis, were compared to those obtained previously from interviews with first-year engineering students. This comparative analysis provided insights into how adaptation to college life and experience with discipline-specific coursework influence engineering students’ efficacy beliefs. The open dialogue we have achieved with these students has provided us with rich, personal accounts of how students perceive the second-year engineering learning environment. Findings can help educators understand how the learning environment they create might dictate the choices, effort, and persistence exhibited by their students. Informed by such an understanding, modifications to the engineering learning environment, aimed at promoting positive efficacy beliefs, are suggested. Ultimately, these modifications hold promise for increasing diversity in engineering, improving student satisfaction and success, and increasing student retention.


In recent years, there has been a growing call for colleges and universities to produce more flexible, innovative engineering students.1-3 This call echoes the concerns of engineering educators who have recognized that the retention issues plaguing the field may be adversely affecting the diversity of the future engineering workforce. Aimed at improving the retention and success of students in the field, research efforts have been focused on the choices, achievement, and interests of undergraduate engineering students. These efforts have resulted in findings indicating that students’ choices to pursue and persist in engineering, and their achievement and interest in the field, are significantly influenced by their engineering self-efficacy beliefs4, 5 – their confidence in their abilities to perform the tasks that they deem necessary to succeed in the engineering environment.

Hutchison, M., & Follman, D., & Bodner, G. (2007, June), The Changing Tides: How Engineering Environments Play A Role In Self Efficacy Belief Modification Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2397

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: © 2007 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