Many studies have examined student engagement in university settings as a predictor for learning and development, finding that generally, higher engagement is linked to gains in professional outcomes and persistence. Engineering student engagement research has been performed on co-curricular experiences and has led to an increased emphasis from institutions on students’ participation in those experiences. Similarly, BME students regularly engage in co-curriculars to supplement their experience in the formal curriculum because of concerns about their professional marketability when they graduate. To help students make an informed co-curricular engagement choice, it is important to understand not only what professional outcomes students gain from their co-curriculars as has been previously studied, but also what about the co-curricular is valuable to their initial engagement and continued participation. This study employs a qualitative study design and the four dimensions of subjective task value described in Eccles’ expectancy value theory of motivation to explore BME students’ engagement in co-curricular experiences. The goal of the study was to better understand why students participate in co-curricular experiences beyond the findings of previous studies which focus on the technical and professional outcomes of participation as well as more deeply explore the way students relate their participation to their preparation for future careers.
The results of the study indicated that BME students are largely motivated to participate in co-curricular experiences for their utility value in leading to a career in BME, which is consistent with outcomes-focused prior studies. Beyond that, students discussed the ability to connect how they see themselves as a biomedical engineer and a general interest in the work and non-career related opportunities available to them through their co-curriculars. While the discussion of cost was minimal in our study, time was also a factor for students’ decision to participate in co-curriculars. These additional findings indicate that students can also be motivated to participate in co-curriculars through other means than just the outcomes studied in prior co-curricular literature.
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