Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
High levels of stress and anxiety are common amongst college students, particularly engineering students. Students report lack of sleep, grades, competition, change in lifestyle, and other significant stressors throughout their undergraduate education (1, 2). Stress and anxiety have been shown to negatively impact student experience (3-6), academic performance (6-8), and retention (9). Previous studies have focused on identifying factors that cause individual students stress while completing undergraduate engineering degree programs (1). However, it not well-understood how a culture of stress is perceived and is propagated in engineering programs or how this culture impacts student levels of identification with engineering. Further, the impact of student stress has not been directly considered in engineering regarding recruitment, retention, and success. Therefore, our guiding research question is: Does the engineering culture create stress for students that hinder their engineering identity development?
To answer our research question, we designed a sequential mixed methods study with equal priority of quantitative survey data and qualitative individual interviews. Our study participants are undergraduate engineering students across all levels and majors at a large, public university. Our sample goal is 2000 engineering student respondents. We combined three published surveys to build our quantitative data collection instrument, including the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS), Identification with engineering subscale, and Engineering Department Inclusion Level subscale. The objective of the quantitative instrument is to illuminate individual perceptions of the existence of an engineering stress culture (ESC) and create an efficient tool to measure the impact ESC on engineering identity development. Specifically, we seek to understand the relationships among the following constructs; 1) identification with engineering, 2) stress and anxiety, and 3) feelings of inclusion within their department. The focus of this paper presents the results of the pilot of the proposed instrument with 20 participants and a detailed data collection and analysis process.
In an effort to validate our instrument, we conducted a pilot study to refine our data collection process and the results will guide the data collection for the larger study. In addition to identifying relationships among construct, the survey data will be further analyzed to specify which demographics are mediating or moderating factors of these relationships. For example, does a student’s 1st generation status influence their perception of stress or engineering identity development? Our analysis may identify discipline-specific stressors and characterize culture components that promote student anxiety and stress. Our objective is to validate our survey instrument and use it to inform the protocol for the follow-up interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the responses to the survey instrument. Understanding what students view as stressful and how students identify stress as an element of program culture will support the development of interventions to mitigate student stress.
Jensen, K., & Cross, K. J. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Understanding Student Perceptions of Stress as Part of Engineering Culture Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/31312
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