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The Role of Intentional Self-Regulation in Achievement in Engineering

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1500.1 - 22.1500.11



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Paper Authors

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Morgan M Hynes Tufts University


Ann F. McKenna Arizona State University, Polytechnic

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Ann McKenna is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering in the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University (ASU). Prior to joining ASU she served as a program officer at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education and was on the faculty of the Segal Design Institute and Department of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University. Dr. McKenna’s research focuses on understanding the cognitive and social processes of design, design teaching and learning, the role of adaptive expertise in design and innovation, the impact and diffusion of education innovations, and teaching approaches of engineering faculty. Dr. McKenna received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Chris Rogers Tufts University

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Chris is a professor of mechanical engineering at Tufts University and the director of the Center for Engineering Education Outreach. He has worked for many years with LEGO and the NSF to better understand how students learn and use that to inform the development of educational tools.

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Megan Kiely Mueller Tufts University

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Xaver Neumeyer Northwestern University


Richard M. Lerner Tufts University

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Richard M. Lerner is the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and the Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. He went from kindergarten through Ph.D. within the New York City public schools, completing his doctorate at the City University of New York in 1971 in developmental psychology. Lerner has more than 500 scholarly publications, including more than 70 authored or edited books. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Research on Adolescence and of Applied Developmental Science, which he continues to edit. He was a 1980-81 fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science.
Prior to joining Tufts University, he was on the faculty and held administrative posts at The Pennsylvania State University, Michigan State University, and Boston College, where he was the Anita L. Brennan Professor of Education and the Director of the Center for Child, Family, and Community Partnerships. During the 1994-95 academic year, Lerner held the Tyner Eminent Scholar Chair in the Human Sciences at Florida State University.
Lerner is known for his theory of relations between life-span human development and social change, and for his research about the relations between adolescents and their peers, families, schools, and communities. As illustrated by his 2004 book, Liberty: Thriving and Civic Engagement among America’s Youth, and his 2007 book, The Good Teen: Rescuing Adolescence from the Myth of the Storm and Stress Years, his work integrates the study of public policies and community-based programs with the promotion of positive youth development and youth contributions to civil society.
He is married to Dr. Jacqueline V. Lerner, Professor in the Department of Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. They live in Wayland, Massachusetts. They have three children, Justin, 30, a director and screen writer living in Los Angeles, Blair, 27, an advertising executive at Media Contacts in Boston, and Jarrett, 23, a 2009 English major graduate of Tufts University and an aspiring fiction writer.

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The Role of Intentional Self-Regulation in Achievement in EngineeringLife, or “soft,” skills are an important, but often overlooked, component of engineeringeducation. The acquisition of such skills has been linked in adolescence to greater successin high school and in later life pursuits. Based on this research, we investigated theprocesses of intentional self-regulation as indicative of positive, healthy or, moregenerally, adaptive behavior and development. Self-regulation was measured as theselection [S] of positive goals (e.g., graduation from college with good grades in one’schosen major); the optimization [O] of one’s chances of attaining one’s goals (e.g.,executive functioning, planning, strategy formation, or resources recruitment); and theability to compensate [C] effectively when, for instance, strategies fail or when initialgoals are blocked. These “SOC” skills involve also loss-based selection [LBS], whichinvolves making a new selection after initial failure or loss and thus the continuedmanifestation of adaptive intentional self-regulations.These four SOC skills (S< LBS< O, and C) align closely with engineering design processactivities, such as selecting the best possible solutions to pursue, optimizing based on theconstraints of the problem, and compensating for the challenges that arise inimplementing a solution. Accordingly, the goal of the present research was to apply theexisting methods developed for measuring these SOC skills among universityundergraduate engineering students. Our underlying question was: Are such skills ofparticular importance to engineers as they develop their knowledge base and launchtheir careers?To answer this question, we conducted a cross-sectional study at two universities (labeledA and B) with sophomore, junior, and senior engineering students. Surveyingapproximately 400 students at each institution (about 50% engineering student and theremaining students from Arts & Sciences backgrounds), we measured students’ GPAs,extracurricular activities (major and non-major related), and SOC skills.Using multiple regression analysis, there appears to be a direct and positive relationbetween these intentional self-regulations skill sets (i.e., S, O, C, or LBS) and the GPAsof engineers in one of the universities and a mediated relation between SOC, activities,and GPA in the other university. For all groups of students there was also a relationshipbetween participating in out-of-classroom “professional” (academic major-related)activities and GPA. Greater activities participation predicted higher GPA among both theengineering and liberal arts students.

Hynes, M. M., & McKenna, A. F., & Rogers, C., & Mueller, M. K., & Neumeyer, X., & Lerner, R. M. (2011, June), The Role of Intentional Self-Regulation in Achievement in Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18991

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