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Work in Progress: Using the Critical Incident Technique to Illuminate the Relationship between Engineering Identity and Academic Motivation

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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

ERM Technical Session 2: The Study of Identity in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors

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Caroline Bolton Bucknell University


Kaela M. Martin Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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Kaela Martin is an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott Campus. She graduated from Purdue University with a PhD in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and is interested in increasing classroom engagement and student learning.

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Elif Miskioglu Bucknell University

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Dr. Elif Miskioglu is currently an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University. She graduated from Ohio State University in 2015 with a PhD in Chemical Engineering, and is interested in student learning in engineering. In particular, her work focuses on various aspects of students' development from novice to expert, including development of engineering intuition, as well as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills.

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This work in progress describes preliminary work exploring the connection between an individual’s identity and their motivation towards academic goals. Understanding this relationship may prove vital in developing innovative classroom techniques to promote higher student motivation, and subsequently, successful academic performance. Previous work suggests that a greater establishment of one’s career identity translates into greater career motivation. We hypothesize that this relationship may also hold true in the classroom setting; i.e., that a secure sense of academic identity directly correlates to academic motivation and subsequently success. This study seeks to measure the motivation of an individual by analyzing their previous responses to failure. The subject population centers on a diverse group of students, ranging from “traditional” college students to veterans, with ambitions in either aeronautic or astronautic engineering careers. The engineering identity instrument used within our study, developed by Dr. Allison Godwin of Purdue University, West Lafayette, focuses on discovering how students view themselves within their chosen field of engineering. In addition to engineering identity, this study uses the critical incident technique, in which we ask individuals to recall and describe a time in which they had a significant academic or professional failure. Did they continue to remain motivated despite the failure? Or did they willingly submit to the difficulty and give up all together? Perhaps, they landed somewhere in between – unhappy with defeat but also hesitant to face the same challenges again. There is no bound to the ways an individual can react to certain situations; their unique response is a part of what defines them. Specifically, we are interested in the disciplinary difference between students interested in aeronautic engineering versus astronautic engineering and how their motivation connects to their academic or professional success. The class used in this study is an upper-level space mechanics course required for both astronautic and aeronautic-track aerospace engineering students. In general, most students on the astronautic-track take the course as juniors as it is an integral part of their core curriculum, whereas for aeronautic students it provides breadth and perspective. In measuring the different levels of motivation among individuals of different majors within the same course, we demonstrate how identity contributes to success in academia overall. Determining the disciplinary identity of students and their subsequent resilience can provide educators with ways to adjust their teaching techniques to better encompass the range of individuals taking their courses. In future work, we will continue to sort through the vast collection of variables contributing to the difference in individuals and their resulting motivation, such as underrepresentation, experience, and adaptability.

References Godwin, Allison. “The Development of a Measure of Engineering Identity.” ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition (2016)

Bolton, C., & Martin, K. M., & Miskioglu, E. (2019, June), Work in Progress: Using the Critical Incident Technique to Illuminate the Relationship between Engineering Identity and Academic Motivation Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33661

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