AWARENESS OF SELF AND THE ENGINEERING FIELD: STUDENT MOTIVATION, ASSESSMENT OF ‘FIT’ AND PREPAREDNESS FOR ENGINEERING EDUCATION
AbstractUnderstanding factors that influence incoming students’ preparedness and success is critical in improving educational efficacy. Students’ prior experiences, assumptions, and habits influence their engagement in process of learning to become competent design engineers. A thematic analysis of students’ reasons for pursuing an engineering major revealed such decisions to be based on self-assessed personal fit. This paper indicates four common types of personal fit as described by students: matching skillsets, desirable activities, meaningful impact, and exploratory intrigue. From these, two key factors emerged: an awareness of self (ie. skills, interests, values) and an awareness of the engineering field (ie. nature of its work, its value to society, its value to the individual). These factors were influenced by: prior academic performance in core courses, authoritarian influence and the presence of engineers within their social networks. The paper also discusses incoming students’ perception of design engineering attributes as revealed in their survey responses. We argue that efforts are needed to provide students, before and during university, with opportunities to engage with career engineers or engineering exercises in order for them to be able to accurately establish an understanding of the engineering field, negotiate expected learning outcomes, master effective strategies to succeed, assess their strengths and limitations. The data are drawn from a larger study on student motivation and learning process in design engineering education.