This complete research paper examines students’ situational motivation responses to open-ended design projects with varying degrees of autonomy control in a freshman Introduction to Engineering course. Four sections of the course were given different project themes with different constraints on scope and materials. The Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS) survey, an instrument to measure four types of motivation (intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, external regulation and amotivation) based on Self-Determination Theory (SDT), was administered weekly to the students enrolled in the four sections during the nine-week open-ended design project. A Basic Needs Satisfaction Scale (BNSS) survey was given at the end of the semester to measure the degree to which three basic psychological needs, autonomy, relatedness, and competence, were satisfied. Quantitative analysis reveals that the open-ended design project with the least constraints prompts more positive self-determination compared to the one with the most constraints. The provision of choice and control has a more prominent impact on female students’ motivation than on male students. The perceived need satisfaction of competence may play a role in shaping students’ motivational responses.
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