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Work in Progress: A Longitudinal Study of Student Motivation Throughout the Lifetime of a First-Year Course

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Work in Progress Postcard Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Sarah Anne Blackowski Virginia Tech

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Sarah is a PhD student in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She has a bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and, during that time, spent a summer at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering for an REU in engineering education. Sarah's research interests include: motivation, student and faculty metacognition, and engineering faculty self-regulated learning.

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Holly M. Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Dr. Holly M. Matusovich is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education. She is current the Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Programs and the former Assistant Department Head for Graduate Programs in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. Dr. Matusovich is recognized for her research and practice related to graduate student mentoring. She won the Hokie Supervisor Spotlight Award in 2014, was nominated for a Graduate Advising Award in 2015, and won the 2018 Graduate Student Mentor Award for the College of Engineering. Dr. Matusovich has graduated 10 doctoral students since starting her research program in Spring 2009. Dr. Matusovich co-hosts the Dissertation Institute, a one-week workshop each summer funded by NSF, to help underrepresented students develop the skills and writing habits to complete doctorate degrees in engineering. Across all of her research avenues, Dr. Matusovich has been a PI/Co-PI on 12 funded research projects including the NSF CAREER Award with her share of funding be ingnearly $2.3 million. She has co-authored 2 book chapters, 21 journal publications and more than 70 conference papers. She has won several Virginia Tech awards including a Dean’s Award for Outstanding New Faculty, an Outstanding Teacher Award and a Faculty Fellow Award. She holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University, an M.S. in Materials Science from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Tamara Knott Virginia Tech

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Tamara Knott is Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She primarily teaches Engineering Foundations classes to first year engineering students. 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.

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For students, choosing an appropriate major is a critical factor in ensuring a productive and successful college experience. Major choice determines the nature of work students engage in and the faculty and peers with whom they come in contact. Research shows that both of these factors impact student learning, satisfaction, and persistence. For engineering students, the selection of a discipline can be difficult. As a result, some engineering programs have a First-Year Experience (FYE) course which provides students with engineering design, global interest, math skills, academic success, engineering profession, latent curricular and professional skills, communication skills, and skill with engineering-specific tools. In fact, the FYE course has proliferated in U.S. engineering programs, with nearly 60% of these programs touting a course of their own. However, even within FYE, there are many variations in course offerings.

With this increasing popularity, it is important to understand the effects of different FYE offerings on their students. FYE courses are often large and engagement multiple instructors and have differing degrees to which course content and approaches to teaching are controlled. The purpose of this study is to analyze the impact that faculty autonomy in the FYE has on student motivation within a single FYE course by answering the following research question: With increasing instructor autonomy, how does student motivation change in a First-Year Engineering course? This question is addressed through the use of existing survey data and course records collected over a three-year period to determine how students’ motivation changes over their first year of which the FYE experience is a significant part. The survey was designed using questions grounded in Eccles’ Expectancy-Value Theory (EVT) and Jones’ MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation.

The recommendations offered in this study can serve as useful resources for instructors seeking to understand how their approach to the Introduction to Engineering course affects student motivation in their course.

Blackowski, S. A., & Matusovich, H. M., & Knott, T. (2019, June), Work in Progress: A Longitudinal Study of Student Motivation Throughout the Lifetime of a First-Year Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33582

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