skip to main content

Title: The Making of an Innovative Engineer: Academic and Life Experiences that Shape Engineering Task and Innovation Self-Efficacy.
This research paper presents the results of a study that uses multivariate models to explore the relationships between participation in learning experiences, innovation self-efficacy, and engineering task self-efficacy. Findings show that many engineering students participated in learning experiences that are typically associated with engineering education, such as taking a shop class or engineering class in high school (47%), taking a computer science (81%) or design/prototyping (72%) class as an undergraduate, working in an engineering environment as an intern (56%), or attending a career related event during college (75%). Somewhat surprisingly, given the rigors of an engineering curriculum, a significant number of students participated in an art, dance, music, theater, or creative writing class (55%), taken a class on leadership topics (47%), and/or participated in student clubs outside of engineering (44%) during college. There also were important differences in rates of participation by gender, underrepresented racial/ethnic minority status, and first generation college student status. Overall prediction of engineering task self-efficacy and innovation self-efficacy was relatively low, with a model fit of these learning experiences predicting engineering task self-efficacy at (adjusted r2 of) .200 and .163 for innovation self-efficacy. Certain patterns emerged when the learning experiences were sorted by Bandura’s Sources of Self-Efficacy. For engineering task self-efficacy, higher participation in engineering mastery and vicarious engineering experiences was more » associated with higher engineering task self-efficacy ratings. For the development of innovation self-efficacy, a broader range of experiences beyond engineering experiences was important. There was a strong foundation of engineering mastery experiences in the innovation self-efficacy model; however, broadening experiences beyond engineering, particularly in the area of leadership experiences, may be a factor in innovation selfefficacy. These results provide a foundation for future longitudinal work probing specific types of learning experiences that shape engineering students’ innovation goals. They also set the stage for comparative models of students’ goals around highly technical engineering work, which allows us to understand more deeply how “innovation” and “engineering” come together in the engineering student experience. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1636442
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10043008
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, June 25-28. Columbus, OH.
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. This study examines the relationship between participation in extracurricular college activities and its possible impact on students’ career interests in entrepreneurship and innovation. This work draws from the Engineering Majors Survey (EMS), focusing on innovation self-efficacy and how it may be impacted by participation in various extracurricular college activities. The term self-efficacy as developed by Albert Bandura is defined as “people’s judgment of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances” (Bandura, 1986, p.391). Innovation self-efficacy is a variable consisting of six items that correspond to Dyer’s five discovery skills seen asmore »important for innovative behavior. In order to investigate the relationship between participation in certain activities and innovation self-efficacy, the 20 activities identified in the EMS survey were grouped thematically according to their relevance to entrepreneurship-related topics. Students were divided into two groups using K-means cluster analysis according to their innovation selfefficacy (ISE.6) score. Cluster one (C1) contained the students with higher ISE.6 scores, Cluster two (C2) included the students with lower innovation self-efficacy scores. This preliminary research focused on descriptive analyses while also looking at different background characteristics such as gender, academic status and underrepresented minority status (URM). The results show that students in C1 (high ISE.6) have significantly greater interest in starting an organization (78.1%) in comparison to C2 students (21.9%) (X²=81.11, p=.000, Cramer’s V= .124). At the same time, male students reported significantly higher ISE.6 scores (M=66.70, SD=17.53) than female students (M=66.70, SD=17.53) t(5192)=-5.220 p=.000 and stronger intentions to start an organization than female students (15% and 6.1 % respectively). Cluster affiliation representing innovation self-efficacy as well as gender seems to play a role when looking at career interest in entrepreneurship. According to Social Cognitive Career Theory, self-efficacy is influenced by learning experiences. In this work activities referring to hands-on activities in entrepreneurship and innovation are highly correlated with ISE.6 (r=.206, p=.000), followed by non-hands-on exposure to entrepreneurship and innovation. At the same time, students in C1 participated almost twice as often in hands-on activities in entrepreneurship and innovation (28.6%) as compared to students in C2 (15.2%). Interestingly in C1, there were no gender differences in participation in hands-on activities in entrepreneurship and innovation. Overall, female students (M=4.66, SD=2.5) participated in significantly more activities than male students (M=3.9, SD=2.64), t(5192)=9.65 p=.000. All in all, these results reveal interesting insights into the potential benefits of taking part in innovation and entrepreneurship-related activities and their impact on students’ innovation self-efficacy and interests in corresponding careers.« less
  2. In order to lead the social process required to solve society’s grandest challenges and ensure that the capabilities of an expanded engineering workforce are successfully harnessed, new engineers must be more than just technical experts, they must also be technical leaders. Thankfully, greater numbers of engineering educators are recognizing this need and are consequently establishing engineering leadership certificates, minors, and even full degree programs through centers at universities throughout the country. However, for these programs to reach their full potential, engineering educators must be successful in integrating leadership into the very identity of engineers. This study seeks to better understandmore »the relationship between engineering identity and leadership, so tools can be developed that enable engineering educators to more effectively integrate leadership into an engineering identity. This paper explores this relationship using a national sample of 918 engineering students who participated in the 2013 College Senior Survey (CSS). The CSS is administered by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA to college students at the end of their fourth year of college; data from the CSS are then matched to students’ prior responses on the 2009 Freshman Survey (TFS), which was administered when they first started college, to create a longitudinal sample. Using a leadership construct developed by HERI as the outcome variable, this work utilizes Hierarchical Linear Modelling (HLM) to examine the impact of engineering identity and a host of other factors shown to be important in college student development on leadership. HLM is especially appropriate since individual student cases are grouped by schools, and predictor variables include both student-level and institution-level variables. The leadership construct, referred to as leadership self-efficacy in this work, includes self-rated growth in leadership ability, self-rating of leadership ability relative to one’s peers, participation in a leadership role and/or leadership training, and perceived effectiveness leading an organization. The primary independent variable of interest was a factor measuring engineering identity comprised of items available on both the TFS and CSS instruments. Including this measure of engineering identity from two different time periods in the model provides the relationship between engineering identity in the fourth year and leadership self-efficacy, controlling for engineering identity in the first year as a pretest. Statistically significant results were found across each of the areas tested, including the fourth-year engineering identity factor as well as several collegiate experiences, pre-college experiences, major, and institutional variables. Taken together, these results present a nuanced picture of what matters to predicting leadership outcomes for undergraduate engineering students. For example, while engineering identity is a significant positive predictor of the leadership construct, computer engineers score lower than mechanical engineers on leadership, while interacting with faculty appears to enhance leadership self-efficacy.« less
  3. The purpose of the Research in the Formation of Engineers National Science Foundation funded project, Developing Engineering Experiences and Pathways in Engineering Technology Career Formation (D.E.E.P. Engineering Technology Career Formation), is to develop a greater understanding of the professional identity, institutional culture, and formation of engineer technicians and technologists (ET) who are prepared at two-year colleges. ET professionals are important hands-on members of engineering teams who have specialized knowledge of components and engineering systems. Little research on career development and the role of ET in the workforce has previously been conducted prompting national organizations such as NSF and the Nationalmore »Academy of Sciences to prompt more research in this area [1]. The primary objectives of this project are to: (a) identify dimensions of career orientations and anchors at various stages of professional preparation and map to ET career pathways, (b) develop an empirical framework, incorporating individual career anchors and effect of institutional culture, for understanding ET professional formation, and (c) develop and pilot interventions aimed at transforming engineering formation systems in ET contexts. The three interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks integrated to guide design and analysis of this research study are social cognitive career theory (SCCT) [2], Schein’s career anchors which focuses on individual career orientation [3], and the Hughes value framework focused on the organization [4]. SCCT which links self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations, and personal goals to educational and career decisions and outcomes ties the individual career anchors to the institutional context of the Hughes framework [2]. To date, the project has collected and analyzed quantitative data from over 330 participants who are two-year college ET students, two-year college transfer students, and early career ET professionals. Qualitative data from historical institutional documents has also been collected and analyzed. Initial analyses have revealed gaps and needed areas of support for ET students in the area of professional formation. Thus far, the identified gaps are in institutional policy (i.e. lack of articulation agreements), needed faculty professional development (i.e. two-year faculty on specific career development and professional ET formation needs and four-year faculty on unique needs of transfer students), missing curriculum and resources supporting career development and professional formation of ET students, and integration of transfer student services focusing on connecting faculty and advisors across both institutional levels and types of programs. Significant gaps in the research promoting understanding of the role of ET and unique professional formation needs of these students were also confirmed. This project has been successful at helping to broaden participation in ET engineering education through integrating new participants into activities (new four-year institutional stakeholders, new industry partners, new faculty and staff directly and indirectly working with ET students) and through promoting disciplinary (engineering education and ET) and cross disciplinary collaborations (human resource development, higher education leadership, and student affairs). With one year remaining before completion of this project, this project has promoted a better understanding of student and faculty barriers supporting career development for ET students and identified need for career development resources and curriculum in ET. Words: 498 References [1] National Academy of Engineering. (2016). Engineering technology education in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. [2] Lent, R.W., & Brown, S.B. (1996). Social cognitive approach to career development: An overivew. Career Development Quarterly, 44, 310-321. [3] Schein, E. (1996). Career anchors revisited: Implications for career development in the 21st century. Academy of Management Executive, 10(4), 80-88. [4] Hughes, C. (2014, Spring). Conceptualizing the five values of people and technology development: Implications for human resource managmeent and development. Workforce Education Forum, 37(1), 23-44.« less
  4. The purpose of this work in progress research paper is to examine the differences in leadership self-efficacy among engineering undergraduates and their peers in other fields, and understand how leadership self-concept changes from the first through the fourth year of college. This study conceptualizes engineering formation as a professional identity development process, cultivated through participation in engineering communities of practice. The guiding hypothesis is that experiences that contribute to engineering identity, which focus on the development of technical mastery, conflict with the development of leadership self-concept. This work presents preliminary analysis of the differences between engineering undergraduates and their peersmore »with regard to their leadership experiences during college. Preliminary results reveal a complex picture of the differences between engineering students and their peers in other STEM and non-STEM fields. Engineering students have the highest leadership self-efficacy of all three groups by the end of the fourth year of college, which mirrors differences in self-rated leadership skills at college entry. However, differences in leadership experiences during college vary among these three groups, and not consistently with their leadership self-efficacy. Engineers are least likely to participate in a leadership training during college and to value becoming a leader after college. Among engineering students, students who participate in internships, undergraduate research, and collaborate with peers report higher leadership. Leadership is unrelated to plans to enter engineering as a career.« less
  5. High-impact academic experiences, particularly research and internship experiences, have positive impacts for engineering students on engineering task self-efficacy (ETSE), a measure of students’ perception of their ability to perform technical engineering tasks. However, under- represented racial/ethnic minority students (URM) and women in engineering are found to have relatively lower self-perceptions across several academic and professional self-efficacy measures. Previous studies examined the impact of research and internship experiences on ETSE for students categorized by gender and URM status separately. The current study explores the impact of these experiences on ETSE for the intersection between these two identity categories. This study foundmore »that both non-URM and URM women that participated in research and internship experiences had lower ETSE scores than non-URM and URM men, respectively. However, URM women that participated in both research and internship experiences had a statistically similar ETSE score to non-URM men that had not participated in either. This study uses multiple linear regression to measure the association between engineering internships and student’s reported ETSE (effects of participating in research were not found to be significant across identities). Preliminary findings indicate that differences in ETSE between internship participants and non-participants are highest for URM women when compared to their counterparts. Consistent with the literature, this research finds that there is a greater positive effect in ETSE scores, as a result of participation in both research and internship experiences, for URM women than their majority counterparts. These preliminary results provide a foundation for further studies to causally investigate the link between academic experiences and self-efficacy levels for students who are underrepresented in engineering programs. Future implications of this work include the creation of targeted intervention efforts to increase support for all URM students’ access and participation in research and internship experiences. Additionally, this work seeks to challenge the bias towards monolithic interpretations of women and URM engineering students as separate categories and encourage intersectional perspectives when analyzing data to produce more inclusive results. Key Concepts: intersectionality, self-efficacy, engineering task self-efficacy, learning outcomes, academic pathways, inclusion, engineering experiences, research, internships« less