Researchers have identified many factors affecting undergraduate engineering students' achievement and persistence. Yet, much of this research focuses on persistence within academia, with less attention to career plans after graduation. Furthermore, the relative influence of expectancy-versus value-related beliefs on students' achievement and career plans is not fully understood.
To address these gaps, we examined the relationships among the following motivation constructs for female and male first-year engineering students: (a) expectancy-related constructs that included engineering self-efficacy (i.e., a judgment of one's ability to perform a task in engineering) and expectancy for success in engineering (i.e., the belief in the possibility of success in engineering); (b) value-related constructs that included identification with engineering (i.e., the extent to which one defines the self through a role or performance in engineering) and engineering values (i.e., beliefs related to engineering interest, importance, and usefulness); (c) engineering achievement; and (d) engineering career plans.
Participants included 363 first-year engineering students at a large state university. The students completed an online survey instrument in the first and second semester of their first year.
Students' expectancy- and value-related beliefs decreased over the first year for both men and women. Men reported higher levels for expectancy-related beliefs than women. Expectancy-related constructs predicted achievement better than the value-related constructs, whereas value-related constructs predicted career plans better for both men and women.
Expectancy- and value-related constructs predicted different outcomes. Thus, both types of constructs are needed to understand students' achievement and career plans in engineering.