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Understanding Engineering Students' Stress and Emotions during an Introductory Engineering course.

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Self-efficacy and Emotion: ERM Roundtable

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1622.1 - 26.1622.14



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Paper Authors


Jenefer Husman Arizona State University

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Jenefer Husman received a doctoral degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, in 1998. She served as an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama from 1998 to 2002, when she moved to Arizona State University. In 2008 she was promoted by ASU to Associate Professor. Dr. Husman serves as the Director of Education for the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technology Center - an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center. Dr. Husman is an assistant editor of the Journal of Engineering Education, has been a guest editor of Educational Psychology Review, served on editorial board for top educational research journals, and currently sits on the editorial board of Learning and Instruction. In 2006 she was awarded the U.S. National Science Foundation CAREER grant award and received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the President of the United States. She has conducted and advised on educational research projects and grants in both the public and private sectors, and served as an external reviewer for doctoral dissertations outside the U.S. She publishes regularly in peer-reviewed journals and books. Dr. Husman was a founding member and first President of the Southwest Consortium for Innovative Psychology in Education and has held both elected and appointed offices in the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Motivation Special Interest Group of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction.

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Katherine C Cheng Arizona State University

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Katherine Cheng is a doctoral student at the Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. She is interested in understanding the origins of students' academic performance and their well-being. Kat completed her BS and MA in Psychology, and is currently majoring in Family and Human Development. Her research emphasizes a multi-disciplinary perspective, including bringing together constructs from the fields of motivation, human development, and biopsychology. Her research is dedicated to understanding the links between students’ emotions, emotion regulation, attention, and future-oriented motivation with respect to optimal school performance and physiological well-being.

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Krista Puruhito Arizona State University

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Evan J Fishman Stanford University

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Write-up for the Biological Response Study: Pilot Study – Part I Understanding Engineering Students Stress and Emotions during an Introductory Engineering course. Although recent research in engineering education has focused on student enjoyment ofcoursework and its influence on student retention, very little research has engaged theoreticalframeworks which identify the specific role that student beliefs and emotions play in courseengagement. Additionally educational research focusing on student beliefs, motivations, andemotions have only recently tied these beliefs to biological responses. We will presentfindings regarding students’ beliefs, emotions, and biological responses to stress during oneengineering ethics course. We suspect that students’ beliefs about the value of a course for their future as engineershas an impact on students’ academic emotions. We also propose that these beliefs andemotions will be jointly reflected in the bio-manifestations of students’ salivary profiles,represented by saliva cortisol (e.g., Gordis, Granger, Susman, & Trickett, 2006). Cortisol is ahormone released when humans experience stress or discomfort; recent research hasdemonstrated that cortisol levels in human saliva are good predictors of a biological responseto stress and discomfort. Few studies, however, have explored the associations betweencortisol levels and positive academic achievement emotions, specifically enjoyment. We hypothesized that student’s class-related positive emotions would negativelycorrelated with students’ cortisol levels; we also hypothesized that students’ endogenous PIwould positively predict their positive emotions, and would negatively predict their cortisollevels.Participants Our participants were recruited in an engineering ethics course at a public university inthe Southwest of the US. 31 consented to participate in our study. The sample wasrepresentative of the ASU Engineering program population (e.g., Stump, Husman, Corby,2014).ProceduresProcedures regarding saliva collection specifically followed best practices guidelinesprovided by the Institution of Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research (IISBR). Twovalidated self-report measures of achievement emotions and perceptions of the value of acourse for future goals were used.Results of Multiple Regression Models Results showed that post-class enjoyment was predicted by endogenous perceptions ofWrite-up for the Biological Response Study: Pilot Study – Part Iinstrumentality, above and beyond pre-class cortisol levels (adjusted R2 = .36, R2 = .33, p< .001; see Table 2 for coefficients), explaining approximately 40% of the variance inpost-class enjoyment. Post-class cortisol was significantly predicted by pre-class enjoyment(adjusted R2 = .103, B = -.022, SE = .011, ZB = -.367, p < .05).Discussion This study explored engineering students’ cognitive, emotional, and biological responsesto an ethics course. Specifically, we found that class-related positive emotions negativelycorrelated with students’ cortisol levels, indicating that the more reported enjoyment a studentexperienced in class, the lower their cortisol levels. In addition, students’ value of the classfor achieving future goals predicted students’ positive emotions, suggesting studentsperception of a class as valuable for achieving a future goal can predict the positive emotionsthey experience in class. This examination provides methodological possibilities forunderstanding students’ responses to instruction using both bio-markers and self-report. Alsothe study provides evidence of the effect of beliefs on emotions, the effect of emotions onbiological responses.

Husman, J., & Cheng, K. C., & Puruhito, K., & Fishman, E. J. (2015, June), Understanding Engineering Students' Stress and Emotions during an Introductory Engineering course. Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24958

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