Comparing the Impact of Project Experiences Across the Engineering Curriculum

Laura Hirshfield, Debbie Chachra

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Abstract


Project-based learning can be beneficial for engineering students, giving students the opportunity to complete mastery experiences that improve their engineering self-efficacy or academic self-confidence. However, despite the many potential benefits of projects, there can be issues with project-based learning: students may take on different tasks than their teammates, thus developing different skills and having different mastery experiences; and projects may impact students’ self-confidence or self-efficacy differently, and may depend on the students’ gender or class standing. This paper presents the results of a mixed-methods cross-sectional study focused on project experiences of students in the first, second, and final year of an undergraduate engineering curriculum: specifically, on the tasks that students take on and their changes in engineering confidence and self-efficacy. It was found that students generally experienced an increase in engineering confidence or self-efficacy over the course of the project semester, regardless of gender or class standing. There were differences in confidence between men and women observed at the beginning of first-year courses, but not in later years in the curriculum. However, while there was little evidence of stereotypically gendered divisions of tasks (women spending more of their time on managerial or communication work, men spending more of their time on technical or hands-on tasks) in first-year and sophomore classes, this division was found in senior-year projects. Our work highlights that project-based learning is beneficial for students in terms of increasing their engineering confidence and self-efficacy, but this increase may not persist, as seniors (fourth-year students) did not have higher self-efficacy than first-year students.

Keywords


Confidence, Engineering, Gender, Project-based learning, Self-efficacy

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References


Hirshfield, L.J., & Chachra, D. (2019). Comparing the impact of project experiences across the engineering curriculum. International Journal of Research in Education and Science (IJRES), 5(2), 468-487.


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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
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