Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Impacts of Non-cognitive Factors on Engineering Student Persistence and Variations by Math Level
by Steele, Linda A., Ed.D., Frostburg State University, 2020, 177; 27995387
Abstract (Summary)

Demand is high for college graduates in STEM fields (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2012), but the number of students pursuing engineering degrees has been declining (Marra et. al, 2012). Engineering educators must identify factors impacting student persistence and design intervention efforts accordingly to graduate more engineers. This mixed methods study examines the interrelationship of math skills and non-cognitive factors, particularly self-efficacy and motivation, and how they play a role in student persistence to graduation for engineering students. It is framed by Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994) and Growth Mindset Theory (Dweck, 2006). The research questions for the study examine the relationship of the following factors to engineering student persistence:

• entering math level;

• success in initial math course, as defined by the grade;

• the non-cognitive factors of self-efficacy and motivation, particularly for engineering students who enter with a math level below Calculus;

• other factors that engineering students beginning at varying math levels suggest impacted their persistence in the major.

Findings showed that entering math level is a significant predictor of persistence to semesters six, seven, and eight for engineering students at Frostburg State University. For students who enter at Calculus I, initial math grade was found to predict retention. Survey results showed a weak linear correlation relationship between self-efficacy and persistence, and a moderate relationship between motivation and persistence. Through student interviews, other important factors impacting persistence emerged: 1) close mentoring and support relationships; 2) love of problem-solving, design, and mathematics; 3) willingness to embrace challenges and put forth extra effort to succeed. These findings matched the Social Cognitive Career Theory framework and confirmed Dweck’s Growth Mindset Theory, showing that students demonstrating self-efficacy, motivation, and willingness to embrace challenges persist at higher rates.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Santamaria-Makang, Doris
Commitee: Hoffman, Joseph M., Hurst, Heather L., Speights, Jason C.
School: Frostburg State University
Department: Educational Professions
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 82/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Engineering, Higher education, Educational psychology, Science education
Keywords: Engineering student persistence, Entering math level, Motivation, Self-efficacy
Publication Number: 27995387
ISBN: 9798662568747
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