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  1. Abstract

    Our career-forward approach to general chemistry laboratory for engineers involves the use of design challenges (DCs), an innovation that employs authentic professional context and practice to transform traditional tasks into developmentally appropriate career experiences. These challenges are scaled-down engineering problems related to the US National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges that engage students in collaborative problem solving via the modeling process. With task features aligned with professional engineering practice, DCs are hypothesized to support student motivation for the task as well as for the profession. As an evaluation of our curriculum design process, we use expectancy–value theory to test our hypotheses by investigating the association between students’ task value beliefs and self-confidence with their user experience, gender and URM status. Using stepwise multiple regression analysis, the results reveal that students find value in completing a DC (F(5,2430) = 534.96,p < .001) and are self-confident (F(8,2427) = 154.86,p < .001) when they feel like an engineer, are satisfied, perceive collaboration, are provided help from a teaching assistant, and the tasks are not too difficult. We highlight that although female and URM students felt less self-confidence in completing a DC, these feelings were moderated by their perceptions of feeling like an engineer and collaboration in the learning process (F(10,2425) = 127.06,p < .001).more »When female students felt like they were engineers (gender x feel like an engineer), their self-confidence increased (β = .288) and when URM students perceived tasks as collaborative (URM status x collaboration), their self-confidence increased (β = .302). Given the lack of representation for certain groups in engineering, this study suggests that providing an opportunity for collaboration and promoting a sense of professional identity afford a more inclusive learning experience.

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