This complete research examines self-efficacy development in a declared first-year engineering program. First-year engineering (FYE) programs have grown dramatically over the last 30 years and take a variety of different structures. However, few if any, researchers and FYE program developers have considered how matriculation structure impacts persistence, particularly as it pertains to specific disciplines. Using a qualitative approach, this study is a secondary analysis of self-efficacy development in a declared engineering (DE) first-year program.
Prior research has shown that students’ self-efficacy is key in retention, particularly as it pertains to engineering. These previous works have explored self-efficacy in engineering students at various stages in the engineering curriculum, including the first year. However, since much of the previous work on competence beliefs broadly and specifically self-efficacy in first-year engineering has been conducted with students in general engineering (GE) matriculation structures (e.g., Hutchinson-Green, Jones et al., etc.), this paper is an exploratory qualitative study of how students in a declared engineering (DE) matriculation structure describe their self-efficacy development. Some engineering programs directly admit students into a specific sub-discipline of engineering and offer sub-discipline-specific first-year programs. Others admit students as general engineering majors and offer generalized first-year programs that include all engineering majors together (Chen 2014). These students will be referred to as declared engineering (DE) students and general engineering (GE) students respectively.
While not a direct comparison to previous work with GE students, this exploratory study provided initial insights regarding the extent to which the experiences of DE students correspond to findings from previous work with GE students. Using data collected from the NSF funded project “A Mixed-Methods Study of the Effects of First-Year Project Pedagogies on the Retention and Career Plans of Women in Engineering,” (Jones, Ruff, & Paretti, 2013; Matusovich, Jones, Paretti, Moore, & Hunter, 2011) this secondary analysis of data addresses the research question, How do engineering students from a declared first-year matriculation structure develop engineering self-efficacy, through first-level and pattern coding methods (Miles, Huberman, & Saldana, 2013).
This study resulted in findings that demonstrate that students in a DE matriculation structure develop self-efficacy in the same manner as GE students do as reported by Hutchison-Green et al. (2006, 2008). Some aspects of this study had slightly different findings than Hutchison-Green et al.’s. Reasons for this may be due to the fact that the interview protocol used for the original study was designed using expectancy-value as the theoretical framework as opposed to self-efficacy which is a limitation of this study. While this study was fruitful in exploring self-efficacy development in DE students, additional work to explore self-efficacy development across types of FYE matriculation structures (DE vs. GE) and within the same engineering major, may provide an understanding of engineering self-efficacy within the context of a discipline and add to the discussion around the relationship between motivation and retention. With that said, future work will explore self-efficacy development in students from both DE and GE matriculation structures within one engineering discipline.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.