A Quantitative Analysis of First Year Engineering Students' Courses Perceptions and Motivational Beliefs in Two Introductory Engineering Courses

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Virginia Tech

As a national initiative to support retention of engineering students, engineering programs have undergone a surge of revisions to their coursework in recent years, most notably in relation to first-year programs. These program modifications are generally intended to enhance student success in engineering, including both students' achievement and students' motivation to persist in an engineering degree. This study examines motivational constructs as it compares two versions (standard and revised) of an introductory engineering course taught in a general first year engineering program. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine students' course perceptions, students' Expectancy-Value beliefs, and the relationship between perceptions and beliefs in the two versions of an introductory engineering course. Students' perceptions of the class were measured at the course level using the MUSIC model of Academic Motivation, and students' Expectancy-Value beliefs were measured within the engineering domain level using Expectancy-value theory.

The dissertation is divided into three stages: In the first stage I provide a quantitative comparison of students' perceptions of the course, from students enrolled in each of the two versions of the course. In the second stage, I describe comparisons of Expectancy-Value engineering-related beliefs between students in each of the two versions of the introductory course, as well as within students in one of the courses. In the third stage, I develop structural models to test the relationship between students' perceptions of the introductory engineering courses and their Expectancy-Value engineering-related beliefs.

This study suggests three main outcomes: First, students' perceptions of success and caring are statistically and significantly different between the two versions of the course. Second, students' Expectancy-Value beliefs are discovered to have declined significantly in the standard version of the course, whereas in the revised version of the course, there are no statistically significant differences. Third, the fit indices of the models suggest a good model data-fit providing strong support for the hypothesis that students' perceptions of introductory engineering courses have effect on students' broader motivational beliefs. These outcomes have practical implications for students, instructors, and researchers in first year engineering education.

first-year, engineering, courses, motivation