This research paper examines faculty perceptions of and approaches towards fostering students’ motivation to learn engineering at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). By aligning learning experiences with what motivates Hispanic or Latinx students, the resulting higher student motivation could increase the sense of belonging for underrepresented populations in engineering, ultimately improving student retention and persistence through meaningful instructional practices. Motivation to learn encompasses individuals' perspectives about themselves, the course material, the broader educational curriculum, and their role in their own learning . Students’ motivation can be supported or hindered by their interactions with others, peers, and educators. As such, an educator’s teaching style is a critical part of this process . Therefore, because of the link between a faculty member’s ability to foster student motivation and improved learning outcomes, this paper seeks to explore how engineering faculty approach student motivation in their course designs at Hispanic-Serving Institutions.
Humans are curious beings naturally drawn to exploration and learning. Self Determination Theory (SDT), popularized by Ryan and Deci, describes the interconnection of extrinsic (external) and intrinsic (internal) motivators, acknowledging the link between student’s physiological needs and their learning motivations , . SDT proposes that students must experience the satisfaction of competence, autonomy, and relatedness for a high level of intrinsic motivation. Further, research indicates that appropriately structured, highly autonomy-supportive teaching styles that foster intrinsic motivation are associated with improved student outcomes . However, further research is needed to observe how faculty prioritize students’ innate needs and how they seek to foster student motivation in tangible ways within their engineering classrooms. Therefore, this paper seeks to answer the following research question: What educational supports do engineering faculty at HSIs propose to embed in their curricula to increase their students’ intrinsic motivation?
To answer this question, thirty-six engineering educators from thirteen two- and four-year HSIs from across the continental United States were introduced to the SDT and approaches for supporting students’ intrinsic motivation during a multi-institutional faculty development workshop series. Participants were asked to reflect on and prototype learning experiences that would promote intrinsic motivation and fulfill students’ needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy to learn engineering . Data were collected through a series of reflection worksheets where participants were asked to describe their target stakeholders, define a course redesign goal, and generate possible solutions while considering the impact of the redesign on student motivation. Qualitative analysis was used to explore participant responses. Analysis indicates that the participants were more likely to simultaneously address multiple motivational constructs when attempting to improve student motivation, rather than addressing them individually. Some
of these approaches included the adoption of autonomy-supportive and structured teaching styles. As a result of this research, there is potential to influence future faculty development opportunities at HSIs and further explore intentional learning experiences that promote and foster intrinsic motivation in the engineering classroom.