Asee peer logo

Understanding General Engineering Students’ Identification as Engineers

Download Paper |


2017 FYEE Conference


Daytona Beach, Florida

Publication Date

August 6, 2017

Start Date

August 6, 2017

End Date

August 8, 2017

Conference Session

WIP: Student Success & Development - Focus on Self-Efficacy

Tagged Topics

Diversity and FYEE Conference - Works in Progress Submission

Page Count


Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Racheida S Lewis Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Racheida Lewis, M.E. is a Gates Millennium Scholar and an Engineering Education PhD student at Virginia Tech. She has a passion for STEM Education specifically in the first- and second year at the university level. Racheida is a lifetime member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) where she has held various leadership positions that has enabled her to expand her passions throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

visit author page


Tamara Knott Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

visit author page

Tamara Knott is Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Her interests include assessment and pedagogy. Within ASEE, she is a member of the First-year Programs Division, the Women in Engineering Division, the Educational Research and Methods Division, and the Design in Engineering Education Division. She is also a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and is the Faculty Adviser for SWE at VT.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Understanding General Engineering Students’ Identification as Engineers Authors:

Racheida Lewis Ph.D. Student, Virginia Tech 202-352-6077

Tamara Knott Associate Professor, Virginia Tech 540-231-9543

This paper is a work in progress analysis of major choices by first year engineering students in the General Engineering (GE) program at Virginia Tech. Students whose major is GE are enrolled in Foundations of Engineering I and II (fall and spring respectively), two courses that are part of Virginia Tech’s First Year Experiences. These courses are designed to equip students with problem solving skills, inquiry skills, and integration of learning skills necessary for navigating college level curricula [1]. The series surveys are administered to GE students at three times over the course of their first year: in August at the beginning of the fall semester; in December at the end of the fall semester; and in April at the end of the spring semester. All three surveys collect data about which majors GE students are interested in pursuing at the three points of administration. Survey results used in this study include responses from students who were in the GE program during the 2015-16 academic year and completed all three surveys with a 67% total response rate. Students are required to take these surveys and submit their confirmation of survey completion as a homework assignment in the first-year courses; however, their participation in research is voluntary. Most adults have multiple things they identify with whether it’d be their race, gender, occupation, or even relationship statuses to a spouse, offspring, or other family members. Having social identities provides a person with social validation and a framework for which they navigate the world. These identities are usually beneficial but can also be challenging if one has difficulty incorporating one or more of their identities in their life [2]. Domain identification theory is the extent to which one define themselves through a role or performance in a domain, such as engineering [4]. The First Year surveys administered to students includes relevant constructs using validated measures [3]; 12 survey items are related to utility and may infer students’ identification as engineers, and 9 items are related to belonging to the GE community. At the conclusion of the academic year, most first year engineering students would have completed three surveys that inquires about the usefulness of engineering as a field, and their experience and sense of belonging to the GE program at Virginia Tech. Using domain identification as the theoretical underpinnings for this paper, we seek to gain a better understanding of the relationships between belonging to the GE community at Virginia Tech and identifying as an engineer.

Works Cited

1. First Year Experiences at Virginia Tech. (n.d.). Retrieved February 02, 2017, from 2. Settles, I. H. (2004). When multiple identities interfere: the role of identity centrality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(4), 487–500. 3. Jones, B. D., Paretti, M. C., Hein, S. F., & Knott, T. W. (2010). An Analysis of Motivation Constructs with First-Year Engineering Students: Relationships Among Expectancies, Values, Achievement, and Career Plans. Journal of Engineering Education, 99(4), 319–336. 4. Jones, B. D., Ruff, C., & Osborne, J. W. (2015). Fostering Students’ Identification With Mathematics and Science. In Interest in mathematics and science learning (pp. 331–352). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Lewis, R. S., & Knott, T. (2017, August), Understanding General Engineering Students’ Identification as Engineers Paper presented at 2017 FYEE Conference, Daytona Beach, Florida.

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: © 2017 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