2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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Students often graduate from a major other than that in which they first enrolled. A large proportion of this migration happens within engineering with students moving from one discipline of engineering to another. This movement between disciplines sometimes happens several times. While there has been extensive examination of why students leave engineering,very little research has looked into why students leave one engineering discipline for another.Longitudinal data collected from several engineering colleges has shown that there are definite trends within the movement of engineering students.This study examines the reasons for some of these trends using a unique approach which combines both environmental and personality factors. The study uses measures based on Social Cognitive Career Theory, which has previously been extensively utilized to explore vocational choice in engineering, in conjunction with measures of social influence, and personality to explain disciplinary choices. In addition this study considers the climate students are exposed to in the various engineering disciplines. The intent is to create a model to connect the motivational, personality, and the climate variables in order to construct a clearer picture of how internal and external factors come together to influence students’ vocational choices; specific ally their decision to remain in engineering and to migrate from one engineering discipline to another.This study uses a survey administered electronically to engineering students beyond their sophomore year (to capture those who have had an opportunity to experience and evaluate their major choice and possibly make changes) at a large engineering program. Data collection is ongoing and will be completed within the next two months. The survey questions students about their goals, their outcome expectations, their self-efficacy beliefs, and the barriers and supports they have encountered, their differential orientation to persons or things (believed to be highly predictive of engineering attitudes), their locus of control, their agentic and communal disposition, their orientation to engineering as a social system, basic measures of personality, and their perceptions of the engineering climate in their disciplines.The survey is expected to yield personality profiles of students in various disciplines, student perceptions of the climate in various disciplines, motivation for migration among disciplines, as well as which personality and environmental factors are most strongly predictive of persistence in engineering. Structural equation modeling will be used to explore the relationships among the variables and develop a theory which would explain how these internal and external factors result in students’ choices.


Demetra Evangelou, Matthew Ohland


2011, ASEE

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