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Title: Understanding the Perceived Impact of Engineers’ Leadership Experiences in College
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. Greater numbers of engineering educators are recognizing this need and establishing engineering leadership certificates and minors through centers at universities throughout the country. While the implementation of these offerings is a step forward, most programs tend to focus on leadership as a set of skills or experiences bolted onto a traditional engineering education with limited formal evidence of the impact these experiences have on student development. The purpose of this study is to test the effect of experiences engineering students have in leadership roles on their perceived gains in leadership skills, using a national dataset. The framework guiding this study is a model for engineering leadership identity constructed from Lave and Wenger’s communities of practice model and Komives et al.’s model for leadership identity development (LID) which recognizes that the engineering formation process is, at its core, an identity development process. Engineering leadership is theorized to develop from peripheral participation in engineering communities of practice in ways that promote students’ more » leadership development. Specifically, undertaking leadership roles in curricular and co-curricular engineering activities develops students’ sense of engineering leadership identity, which results in their recognition of gains in different leadership skills. The data for this study come from the 2015 administration of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), overseen by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University. The NSSE is administered to a random sample of first- and fourth-year students, and focuses on curricular and co-curricular student engagement. In 2015, NSSE included a pilot module to assess leadership experiences at 21 participating institutions. The overall sample includes 2607 students who held a leadership role, among whom are 90 engineering students. The dependent variables for this study are a set of eight items prompting students to indicate the extent to which participation in a leadership role contributed to development of different leadership skills. This study employs multiple regression to test the relationships among leadership related experiences and eight leadership skill outcomes for engineering students. Significant results across the eight regression models paint a complex portrait regarding factors that affect gains in leadership skills for engineering students. For example, receiving formal leadership training is a significant positive predictor of only three of the leadership outcomes explored in this work: thinking critically and analytically, working effectively with others, and continuing leadership after college. These results can be utilized by educators engaged in Engineering Leadership education to tailor their program experiences and better achieve the desired educational outcomes. « less
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ASEE annual conference & exposition
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National Science Foundation
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