This work in progress describes preliminary work exploring the connection between an individual’s identity and their motivation towards academic goals. Understanding this relationship may prove vital in developing innovative classroom techniques to promote higher student motivation, and subsequently, successful academic performance. Previous work suggests that a greater establishment of one’s career identity translates into greater career motivation. We hypothesize that this relationship may also hold true in the classroom setting; i.e., that a secure sense of academic identity directly correlates to academic motivation and subsequently success.
This study seeks to measure the motivation of an individual by analyzing their previous responses to failure. The subject population centers on a diverse group of students, ranging from “traditional” college students to veterans, with ambitions in either aeronautic or astronautic engineering careers. The engineering identity instrument used within our study, developed by Dr. Allison Godwin of Purdue University, West Lafayette, focuses on discovering how students view themselves within their chosen field of engineering. In addition to engineering identity, this study uses the critical incident technique, in which we ask individuals to recall and describe a time in which they had a significant academic or professional failure. Did they continue to remain motivated despite the failure? Or did they willingly submit to the difficulty and give up all together? Perhaps, they landed somewhere in between – unhappy with defeat but also hesitant to face the same challenges again. There is no bound to the ways an individual can react to certain situations; their unique response is a part of what defines them. Specifically, we are interested in the disciplinary difference between students interested in aeronautic engineering versus astronautic engineering and how their motivation connects to their academic or professional success. The class used in this study is an upper-level space mechanics course required for both astronautic and aeronautic-track aerospace engineering students. In general, most students on the astronautic-track take the course as juniors as it is an integral part of their core curriculum, whereas for aeronautic students it provides breadth and perspective. In measuring the different levels of motivation among individuals of different majors within the same course, we demonstrate how identity contributes to success in academia overall.
Determining the disciplinary identity of students and their subsequent resilience can provide educators with ways to adjust their teaching techniques to better encompass the range of individuals taking their courses. In future work, we will continue to sort through the vast collection of variables contributing to the difference in individuals and their resulting motivation, such as underrepresentation, experience, and adaptability.
Godwin, Allison. “The Development of a Measure of Engineering Identity.” ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition (2016)
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