An Analysis of Motivation Constructs with First-Year Engineering Students: Relationships Among Expectancies, Values, Achievement, and Career Plans

Authors

  • Brett D. Jones,

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    1. Virginia Tech
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    • Brett D. Jones is an associate professor of Educational Psychology in the School of Education at Virginia Tech. He received his B.A.E. in Architectural Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University and worked as a structural engineer before receiving his M.A. and Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research includes investigating how students' beliefs impact their motivation and learning, and examining methods instructors can use to design instructional environments that support students' motivation and learning. He has developed the MUSIC model of academic motivation to help instructors better understand how they can design courses that will engage students in learning (see http:www.MotivatingStudents.info).

  • Marie C. Paretti,

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    1. Virginia Tech
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    • Marie C. Paretti is an associate professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, and design education. She was awarded a CAREER grant from NSF to study expert teaching practices in capstone design courses nationwide, and is co-PI on several NSF grants to explore identity and interdisciplinary collaboration in engineering design.

  • Serge F. Hein,

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    1. Virginia Tech
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    • Serge F. Hein is an associate professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Virginia Tech and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. His areas of expertise include qualitative research methodology, research design, and social psychological issues in education. His current research focuses on gender stereotyping, standard setting for education tests, clinical supervision, and the application of poststructural theory to qualitative methodology.

  • Tamara W. Knott

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    1. Virginia Tech
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    • Tamara W. Knott is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech and holds a B.S. and M.S. in Engineering Mechanics. Her expertise is in pedagogy and curriculum development in engineering design, programming, and graphics. She coordinates and teaches a freshman engineering course with an enrollment of over 1,000 students annually and has funding from three separate National Science Foundation grants.


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Abstract

Background

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.

Purpose (Hypothesis)

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.

Design/Method

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

Expectancy- and value-related constructs predicted different outcomes. Thus, both types of constructs are needed to understand students' achievement and career plans in engineering.

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