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SEMINAR: Fostering Motivation as a Class Objective in a Large Engineering Class for Second-Year Students: A Narrative Approach

Event Date: November 7, 2013
Speaker: Kathryn Trenshaw
Speaker Affiliation: Graduate Student, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Time: 3:30pm
Location: ARMS B071

Self Determination Theory (SDT) states that intrinsic motivation (IM) in a particular context is supported by increasing an individual's sense of autonomy, competence, relatedness, and purpose with respect to that context. When instructors use IM-supportive methods, they promote learning of class content. This research seeks to describe through narratives how students’ motivation changes in response to a pedagogy designed with fostering intrinsic motivation as a primary class objective. After being observed in the classroom of an IM-supportive class conversion, students were interviewed to document their narratives. Interview transcripts were coded to describe students' motivational orientation throughout the class. The majority of interviewed students demonstrated increases in intrinsic motivation for studying the class content. The interviews revealed that individual choice, interpersonal relationships, and constructive failure were critical in moving students toward intrinsic motivation. While the IM-supportive learning environment did not affect all students equally, the common themes of individual choice, interpersonal relationships, and constructive failure provide deeper insights into how to improve and assess students’ motivational changes in technical engineering classes.

Kathryn F. Trenshaw is a PhD candidate in Chemical Engineering and member of iFoundry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her M.S. in Chemical Engineering in 2011 with a thesis focused on engineering biological systems for tunable gene expression. Her PhD thesis work includes assessing curricular change designed to increase students' intrinsic motivation to learn and investigating the climate in engineering for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. She has presented her work on assessing motivation changes in students at the 2012 Frontiers in Education Conference and both the 2012 and 2013 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition.