Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development

 

 

Using SI and SCCT to Explore MIDFIELD

Project Summary

The principal goal of this project is to expand our understanding of the choices engineering students are making regarding their undergraduate careers, first by identifying the common migratory patterns within engineering, then by exploring why these patterns exist. This research will take advantage of the existing MIDFIELD (Multiple–Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development) database to further understanding of the migratory patterns and persistence of engineering students and the institutional cultures which influence these patterns. Prior work with MIDFIELD has shown that engineering students move among engineering disciplines at a high rate. The reasons for these high migratory rates are currently unknown, though they may be due to institutional culture, personal preference or misconceptions about the disciplines.

Our research team will perform a mixed-methods study using a nested analysis method [3]. The first part of the study will use longitudinal data from ten institutions already compiled in the MIDFIELD database to determine trends in matriculation, migration, attrition, persistence, and graduation by engineering discipline. We will use this large N dataset to develop descriptive models of the enrollment, attrition, and migration amongst various disciplines in engineering. We will examine whether these trends hold true for transfer students, women and minorities and if not, how they differ. The second part of the research will be a smaller N case analysis performed at Purdue University. Purdue was chosen as the case study because it is the latest addition to the MIDFIELD database and so will give us access to the most up-to-date student records extending five years beyond the other MIDFIELD institutions. It is also the home institution of both the PI and Co-PI for this study. This second part of the study will use interviews and survey instruments administered to Purdue students to explain the models developed in the first part. These interviews and surveys will be analyzed in the context of three psychological theories; Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT), Social Influence Theory (SI), and Individual Differences, to determine why students choose to enroll in one engineering discipline rather than another and what factors influence their decision to stay in that discipline, move to another, or leave engineering. This part of the study will also include a climate survey, administered to students electronically, to determine whether the environment in each department influences the migratory patterns.

The proposed study will build on the findings of researchers working with the MIDFIELD database. This database has already contributed significantly to our knowledge of the engineering student body, and this work will expand that contribution. The research will provide insight into the choices engineering students are making. The models arising from our large–N analysis will illuminate the movement of students through their engineering careers. A greater understanding of the choices students are making and the points at which these choices are being made will help engineering educators be prepared to provide the appropriate support to students during decision-making. The insight arising from our case study will help us determine the factors influencing students' choices and perhaps guide educators and institutions on how to improve conditions for their students. In addition the research will broaden the application of the psychological theories utilized, increasing their strength. If the study is successful at Purdue, the instruments used could be expanded to other institutions, increasing our understanding of the broader engineering student body in the United States.

Institutional Research Board

Protection of human rights governed by the Purdue University Institutional Research Board - Protocol # 1006009458.

Researchers

Demetra Evangelou, PI, Purdue University, Engineering Education, Assistant Professor
Matt Ohland, PI, Purdue University, Engineering Education, Associate Professor
Ida Ngambeki, Purdue University, Engineering Education, Graduate Sholar
Russell Long, Purdue University, Engineering Education, Director of Project Evaluation
George Ricco, Purdue University, Engineering Education, Graduate Scholar

Papers/Presentations

  1. Ngambeki, Ida, Evangelou, Demetra, Ricco, George D., and Matthew W. Ohland, Exploring the motivations for migration among engineering students, American Society for Engineering Education 2011 Annual Conference.
  2. Evangelou, Demetra, Matthew W. Ohland, Russell A. Long, Ida Ngambeki, George D. Ricco, Examining the Migratory Patterns of Engineering Students using Social Psychological Theories. Engineering Education and Centers Grantees Conference, March 13-Feb15, 2011.
  3. Ricco, G.D., Ngambeki, I., D. Evangelou, R.A. Long, and M.W. Ohland, Describing the Pathways of Students Continuing and Leaving Engineering, American Society for Engineering Education 2010 Annual Conference.
  4. Evangelou, Demetra, Matthew W. Ohland, Russell A. Long, Ida Ngambeki, George D. Ricco, Examining the Migratory Patterns of Engineering Students using Social Psychological Theories. Engineering Education and Centers Grantees Conference, January 31 – February 2, 2010.

        Thanks to our project sponsors: