Research Briefs -

Understanding Student Experiences and Pathways

The following summaries of CAEE research findings on Student Experiences and Pathways include topics such as:

  • developing identity as an engineer
  • conceptions of engineering
  • logistical difficulties
  • workload and life balance
  • persistence in engineering as a college major and as a career
  • pathways to the workplace

Graduating engineering students

Outside the Classroom: Gender Differences in Extracurricular Activities of Engineering Students (FIE 2009)
This paper explores the relationship of students to engineering- and non-engineering-related extracurricular activities. Read the brief >

How Newcomers Learn the Social Norms of an Organization: A Case Study of the Socialization of Newly Hired Engineers (Human Resources Development Quarterly 2009)
The evidence presented by this study indicates that building relationships in the context of small work groups is a primary driver of socialization for newcomers, especially in large organizations. Read the brief >

Exploring Gender and Self-confidence in Engineering Students: A Multi-method Approach. (ASEE 2009)
Findings from this study indicate that, over the course of the four years of their engineering education, men have higher confidence than women in their math and science abilities and in their ability to solve open-ended problems. Read the brief >

More to Say: Analyzing Open-ended Student Responses to the Academic Pathways of People Learning Engineering Survey. (ASEE 2009)
This paper analyzes student responses to the open ended question “Is there anything else you want to tell us that we didn’t already cover?” Student responses illuminated their voiced passions, concerns and experiences that could not be easily captured solely in a standard multiple choice question format. Read the brief >

I'm Graduating This Year! So What IS an Engineering Anyway? (ASEE 2009)
This research identified a theme of uncertainty about what it means to be an engineer; implications for future research and for practitioners are discussed. Read the brief >

Does Major Matter? A Look at What Motivates Engineering Students in Different Majors (ASEE 2009)
The results of this study show that students’ engineering major does matter when looking at what motivates them to study engineering. Read the brief >

Competence in Engineering: A Tale of Two women. (ASEE 2009)
A lesson for engineering education practitioners, based on the findings in this paper, is that some female engineering students, and perhaps some students in general, need on-going help to bridge the gap between their classroom learning and their perception of the skills needed to practice engineering. Read the brief >

An Engineering Major Does Not (Necessarily) an Engineer Make: Career Decision Making Among Undergraduate Engineering Majors. (Journal of Engineering Education 2009)
Many students are planning careers outside of engineering, feeling that the technical and problem solving skills they acquire in their engineering major equips them for success in a broad range of professions. Read the brief >

Persistence, Engagement, and Migration in Engineering Programs. (Journal of Engineering Education 2008)
This study compared persistence and engagement of students in undergraduate engineering and in other college majors. Findings suggest that our growing understanding of how particular in-class and out-of-class strategies work to increase persistence in engineering may be useful in making engineering more attractive and transparent to non-engineering majors. Read the brief >

Becoming an Engineer: Toward a Three Dimensional View of Engineering Learning. (Journal of Engineering Education 2008)
The case studies described in this paper demonstrate how the differences in students’ ways of navigating their educational experiences via three conceptual dimensions can be consequential. Read the brief >

Conceptualizing Engagement: Contributions of Faculty to Student Engagement in Engineering. (Journal of Engineering Education 2008)
The authors seek to show in this article that faculty members play a critical role in creating conditions conducive to student engagement -- this role can be referred to as faculty engagement. Read the brief >

Being and Becoming: Gender and Identity Formation of Engineering Students. (ASEE 2008)
As the nature of student understanding of engineering changes over time and differs between genders, a complete picture of how students develop an engineering identity becomes complex. Read the brief >

Graduate School or Not: Engineering Students Consider Continuing Their Education in Co-terminal Programs. (ASEE 2008)
This paper is a preliminary exploration of the decisions students make about graduate education. Read the brief >

Moving From Pipeline Thinking to Understanding Pathways: Findings from the Academic Pathways Study of Engineering Undergraduates. (ASEE 2008)
Overall, the preliminary APS findings indicate a large variation in student pathways and institutional influences. Read the brief >

Same Courses, Different Outcomes? Variations in Confidence, Experience, and Preparation in Engineering Design. (ASEE 2008)
Gender differences in confidence and perceived academic preparation to engage in design are primarily accounted for by the gender gap within the majority group. Read the brief >

Socioeconomic Status and the Undergraduate Engineering Experience: Preliminary Findings from Four American Universities. (ASEE 2008)
Low SES students were more likely to professionally persist (i.e., intending to do engineering-related work and/or study for three years following graduation) than their high SES counterparts. Read the brief >

Students' Changing Images of Engineering and Engineers. (ASEE 2008)
Students' identities are affected both by common, widely circulating images of engineering and the absence of real workplace experiences in the undergraduate engineering education. Read the brief >

Will I Succeed in Engineering? Using Expectancy-value Theory in a Longitudinal Investigation of Students' Beliefs. (ASEE 2008)
The data demonstrate that students who lack confidence in skills they perceive to be important to successful engineers can still have a positive expectancy of success in engineering. Read the brief >

The Impact of Professional Goals on Students’ Educational Experiences: A Longitudinal Case Study from Engineering. (AERA 2008)
By increasing the varieties of teaching and learning activities, perhaps more students will develop deeper interests and increased commitment to engineering. Read the brief >

The Role of "Doggedness" in the Completion of an Undergraduate Degree in Engineering. (ASEE 2007)
The observed doggedness phenomenon among engineering students is significant since it impacts students' ability to complete engineering degrees and future decisions to either work in the engineering industry or enter a graduate degree program. Read the brief >

Exploring the Relationships Among Performance on Engineering Tasks, Confidence, Gender, and First Year Persistence. (ASEE 2007)
While men enter engineering reporting higher confidence in themselves than women, they do not perform better on an engineering task nor are they more likely to persist in engineering. Read the brief >

Portraying the Academic Experiences of Students in Engineering: Students' Perceptions of Their Educational Experiences and Career Aspirations in Engineering. (ASEE 2007)
It is important to recognize that what students learn about engineering may be at odds with our best intentions, the needs of the students, and the future of the profession. Read the brief >

Creative, Contextual, and Engaged: Are Women the Engineers of 2020? (ASEE 2007)
Women in this study defined engineering, approached engineering problems, and engaged in their overall engineering education more broadly than men. Read the brief >

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Engineering Students' Persistence is Based on Little Experience or Data. (ASEE 2007)
Many students make their decisions to stay in or leave engineering based on their experiences in prerequisites, not engineering courses. Read the brief >

A Preliminary Analysis of Correlates of Engineering Persistence: Results from a Longitudinal Study. (ASEE 2007)
Preliminary analyses of the Persistence In Engineering (PIE) survey data suggest both similarities and differences between the subjects who are still pursuing an engineering degree and the subjects who have decided to leave engineering. Read the brief >

Engineering as Lifestyle and a Meritocracy of Difficulty: Two Pervasive Beliefs Among Engineering Students and Their Possible Effects. (ASEE 2007)
Two related beliefs can often be found among engineering undergraduates: engineering as lifestyle and a meritocracy of difficulty. Read the brief >

Sponsorship: Engineering's Tacit Gatekeeper. (ASEE 2007)
Comparative case studies examine the relationship between students' interests and their decisions to continue in or leave engineering. Read the brief >

Geeks Are Chic: Cultural Identity and Engineering Students' Pathways to the Profession. (ASEE 2007)
A variety of personal and institutional factors influence students' decisions whether to persist in completing a major in engineering. Read the brief >

Cultural Models of the Admissions Process in Engineering: Views on the Role of Gender. (ASEE 2007)
The view that women get into the college easier than men was prevalent among students, despite the fact that "UWest" has been effectively banned by State law for almost a decade from treating a student preferentially because of her gender. Read the brief >

Why Students Leave Engineering: The Unexpected Bond. (ASEE 2006)
Underlying financial issues can explain why engineering students at one institution in the Academic Pathways Study chose to switch to non-engineering majors after only one year. Read the brief >

Engineering School, Life Balance, and the Student Experience. (ASEE 2006)
Academic Pathways Study data indicate that Mountain Tech students desire greater balance than their academic environment will allow. Read the brief >

Persistence in Engineering Education: Experiences of First Year Students at a Historically Black University. (ASEE 2005)
Because first year experiences play a major role in reinforcing persistence in engineering, engineering educators should be aware of potential hurdles that can affect student achievement. Read the brief >

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