This Complete Research paper will describe the implementation and assessment of a newly developed self-assessment tool called Engineering State of Mind Instrument (ESMI) for first year students in engineering.
Students in their first and second year of engineering school may struggle with their understanding of whether they are suitable as an engineer and if they will graduate, despite earning good grades. They may seek advice from an advisor, peer, mentor, or do nothing at all. In contributing to improving retention of engineering students, a self-assessment tool was developed, over a multi-year process, from validated surveys that assess a student’s engineering state of mind. This includes attitudes, perceptions and self-efficacy towards engineering. The Social Cognitive Career theory was used as the framework in the development of the Engineering State of Mind Instrument (ESMI).
At the University, currently, an average of 45% of the students who declared their major to be mechanical engineering, graduate from the program within 6 years. Of the graduating population in mechanical engineering, women and men show equal graduation rates of 50% to 60% within five years. Computer engineering and chemical engineering students graduate around 48%-55%.
To increase the retention, this university has adopted many notable practices, including mentoring programs, peer mentoring, tutoring, living learning communities and more. However, these opportunities are not all readily available to all students.
Although a great deal of work has been done to establish interventions for first year students there is very little focus on the student’s ability to self-assess and understand their perceptions and attitudes. Research has shown that a student’s engagement depends on their perceptions of their ability to do well in a specific task or discipline. Therefore, this study will serve to create an opportunity to promote self-awareness, through immediate feedback, and assist in identifying and developing students engineering mindset.
To thoroughly assess the instrument, the college’s first year engineering course (with ~280 students) was evaluated. This is a required course and therefore all three engineering disciplines (mechanical, computer, and chemical engineering) are represented. The class delivery format includes one lecture and 10 discussion sections ranging with 20-30 students.
The ESMI was implemented at the very beginning of the semester. To assess the impact, the 10 discussions were divided into 4 experimental groups.
• Group#1: Received ESMI at the start of the semester. No interventions took place. They received ESMI again, toward the end of the semester with follow up questions on the impact of the instrument.
• Group#2: Received ESMI at the start of the semester. Interventions took place. They received ESMI again, toward the end of the semester with follow up questions on the impact of the instrument.
• Group#3: Did not receive ESMI at the beginning of the semester. Did not receive interventions. They received ESMI toward the end of the semester with follow up questions on the impact of the instrument.
• Group#4: Did not received ESMI at the beginning of the semester. Received interventions. Contained organic interventions of Honors College and First Year Experience (FYE) affiliated students. They received ESMI toward the end of the semester with follow up questions on impact of the tool.
The interventions include communicating information dedicated to variables related to improving their attitudes, perceptions and self-efficacy. Additionally, third, fourth- and fifth-year students were asked to take the instrument to serve as both an example to the first-year students and comparison variable.
Results from this study showed students who received the ESMI at the beginning and end of the semester and also had interventions, displayed improvement in all variables. The students who didn’t participate in the ESMI at the beginning or have interventions showed some or no improvement at all. A follow-up impact survey supported these results, reiterating the benefit from and need for an engineering self-assessing instrument.
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