Engineering is one of the few professional fields that has a disproportionately small fraction of female practitioners. One major reason for low female interest and retention in engineering is low engineering self-efficacy. In this study, learning within the freshman engineering culture was explored through a case study. One researcher, Sherry (a pseudonym), took part in this study as a full participant-observer by joining the freshman engineering culture as a student. The researcher was embedded in the freshman engineering classroom for one year. Class activities involved two team-based design projects. With the goal of investigating the context and process of learning engineering, Sherry recorded her learning progress, self-efficacy, and observations in a journal and discussed her experiences with other researchers involved in this project. Data were examined through the lens of Bandura's self-efficacy model. At the beginning of the class, Sherry started with moderately high self-efficacy; however, poor team communication and failure in her first design project significantly decreased her perceived self-efficacy. She also had tool phobia due to unfamiliarity with using power tools, which created an additional barrier to her making contributions to the project. In this study, Sherry's self-efficacy was improved as well as hindered by the mastery experiences relating to engineering skills and project success, by social persuasion from her team members, by the vicarious experiences she gained by observing students similar to herself, and by her physiological reactions. This study provides insights into how self-efficacy, perhaps more than ability, can be an important factor and a powerful motivator influencing the learning of engineering concepts and skills as well as retention in engineering. It also highlights the need to create a community of engineering learners that values professionalism in the transfer of knowledge and skills from one to another. Recommendations are made for team-based classroom activities that would promote positive engineering self-efficacy.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings|
|State||Published - 2007|
ASJC Scopus subject areas