Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
This paper addresses the growing need for a clear definition of ‘thriving’ relevant to engineering students and institutions. This paper was inspired by a research project that examines the impact of non-cognitive factors on engineering student success (NSF #redacted). This project developed a survey to measure several non-cognitive factors using validated instruments reported in the literature. After collecting preliminary data from 490 undergraduate engineering students, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) did not produce a factor structure consistent with previous reports, suggesting a need to develop items with validity evidence for engineering students around these constructs. Given the survey questions on thriving showed strong evidence of internal consistency in a broader higher education population , and the unique experiences and curriculum demands of undergraduate engineering students , it is unlikely that flaws in the survey questions led to these poor EFA results. It is more likely that current models of thriving, which were not developed specifically for undergraduate engineering students, may not fully apply to this population. Thus, the primary focus on this paper is to engage in a theoretical and practical discussion of how thriving in the engineering context can be understood and conceptualized.
The outcome of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework for thriving relevant to engineering students and institutions. This proposed conceptual framework results from a discussion of thriving by connecting topics (such as mindfulness, gratitude, creativity diversity and inclusion) from Engineering Education, Positive Psychology, and other fields.
This framework addresses engineering thriving at both the individual and institutional levels. At the individual level, constructs such as mindfulness, creativity, and meaning are discussed to support engineering students and staff to develop a tolerance for ambiguity and find meaning from external events. At the institutional level, broader topics such as engineering culture are discussed to support the wellbeing of the engineering community based on a systems perspective.
Overall, focusing on thriving in the engineering context in many ways represents a paradigm shift in engineering education that has great potential to inform new strategies that further improve the way engineering is learned, taught, and practiced. Findings from research on engineering thriving is meant to complement, rather than replace, the traditional engineering education in supporting engineering students’ and institutions’ success. This proposed conceptual framework may serve the engineering education community by providing a first step in understanding and measuring thriving in the engineering context to support more engineering students to thrive through graduation and beyond.
 R. Su, L. Tay, and E. Diener, “The Development and Validation of the Comprehensive Inventory of Thriving (CIT) and the Brief Inventory of Thriving (BIT),” Appl. Psychol. Heal. Well-Being, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 251–279, 2014.
 C. P. Veenstra, E. L. Dey, and G. D. Herrin, “Is Modeling of Freshman Engineering Success Different from Modeling of Non-Engineering Success?,” J. Eng. Educ., vol. 97, no. 4, pp. 467–479, 2008.
Ge, J. S., & Berger, E. J. (2018, June), Thriving for Engineering Students and Institutions: Definition, Potential Impact, and Proposed Conceptual Framework Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/31141
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