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The Role of Engineering Doctoral Students' Future Goals on Perceived Task Usefulness

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Graduate Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

17

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/29005

Download Count

132

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Paper Authors

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Marissa A. Tsugawa-Nieves University of Nevada, Reno

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Marissa Tsugawa-Nieves is a graduate research assistant studying at the University of Nevada, Reno in the PRiDE Research Group. She is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Engineering Education. She expects to graduate May of 2019. Her research interests include student development of identity and motivation in graduate engineering research and teaching environments. She is also interested in k-12 integration of engineering in math and science curricula.

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Heather Perkins North Carolina State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-8757-0545

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Heather entered the Applied Social and Community Psychology program in the fall of 2014, after completing her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Cincinnati. She has participated in various research projects examining the interaction between stereotypes and science interest and confidence, their influence upon womens’ performance in school and the workplace, and their presence in the media and consequences for viewers. Her primary research interest is science identity, STEM education, and participation in online communities.

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Blanca Miller University of Nevada, Reno

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Blanca Miller is a Computer Science & Engineering Graduate Student at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research focus lies in engineering education across P-24. Her projects involve investigations of unplugged computer science lessons in K-12, identifying how machine learning can facilitate formative assessment, and understanding the motivation and identities of engineering students. Her education includes a minor in Mechanical Engineering, a B.S. in Secondary Education in Math, and a M.S. in Equity and Diversity from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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Jessica Nicole Chestnut North Carolina State University

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Cheryl Cass North Carolina State University

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Cheryl Cass is a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University where she has served as the Director of Undergraduate Programs since 2011. Her research focuses on the intersection of science and engineering identity in post-secondary and graduate level programs.

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno

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Adam Kirn is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and their learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Abstract

This research paper explores how engineering doctoral students’ (EDS) experiences influence development and utilization of future time perspective (FTP) towards degree completion.

Engineering doctoral programs serve to generate new innovations that solve global problems. However, engineering graduate programs are plagued by high attrition rates and low minority enrollment. These problems limit creation of diverse role models and solutions in engineering. Despite these persistent problems, few studies have sought to understand how EDSs’ experiences foster development of affective traits, including FTP, that have been shown to positively influence undergraduate student development. To add to the limited body of work in graduate education, we address the following research question: How do future career goals influence EDSs’ perceived usefulness of graduate-level tasks?

FTP was used to understand how EDSs’ future oriented motivations influence actions toward degree completion. We examined constructs of perceived instrumentality (PI, usefulness of present tasks for future goals) and career connectedness (how connected the present and future are) in relation to student experiences. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was utilized to analyze EDSs’ FTPs from interviews and focus groups at two land grant institutions (n=11). IPA investigates “sense-making”, or interpretations, of lived experiences by becoming intimate with participants’ experiences. To uncover emergent themes, descriptive, linguistic, and conceptual notes were taken. For this work, one emergent theme, “future goals provide usefulness for present tasks”, is presented.

Mark (mining engineering, final year) defines a future for himself as a lecturer professor and knows “in the end [he] want[s] to be a professor”. Mark perceives usefulness in taking courses outside of his department to gain the skills to “relate to other fields, make quick adjustments, and make an impact”. He connects this skill to his future goal as a professor: “If you want to be a professor, you should just not be knowledgeable in your field.”

George (mechanical engineering, mid-program), contrasts Mark as he has not developed a defined future for himself beyond graduation: “I don't have a preference [for my future], as long as there are some experiments and there are some simulations.” George perceives the usefulness of solving engineering problems in courses, however, he does not extend his discussion beyond his current role of engineering student: “As an engineering student, yes, it's always interesting to solve engineering problems.”

Mark connects course-based tasks with his emerging identity as a professor which aligns with the literature’s definition of endogenous PI. George does not have an emerging identity and constrains problem solving in courses to his present identity as a student (i.e., exogenous PI). Previous work has shown that when tasks are perceived as endogenous, students are more likely to persist past barriers. Exogenous tasks are often seen as barriers that must be overcome quickly. Participants’ valuing of present tasks based on the future indicates a need to explicitly consider FTP in graduate student development. This work provides initial insight into EDSs’ need to develop future selves or perspectives that are integrated into all aspects of their graduate experiences.

Tsugawa-Nieves, M. A., & Perkins, H., & Miller, B., & Chestnut, J. N., & Cass, C., & Kirn, A. (2017, June), The Role of Engineering Doctoral Students' Future Goals on Perceived Task Usefulness Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/29005

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