When examining factors affecting student academic success, it is important to consider how these factors interact with one another. Students’ affective attributes are complex in nature; thus, research methods and analyses should holistically examine how these attributes interact, not simply as a set of distinct constructs. Prior research into engineering students’ affective attributes, in which we used a validated survey to assess student motivation, identity, goal orientation, sense of belonging, career outcome expectations, grit and personality traits, demonstrated a positive correlation between perceptions of belongingness in engineering and time spent in the program. Other prior research has examined interactions between affective attributes, for example engineering identity as a predictor of grit (consistency of interest). However, more work is needed to examine the relationships between sense of belonging, engineering identity, future career outcome expectations and motivation, particularly for students in an engineering program undergoing curricular change. This paper describes a confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation model to examine how engineering identity, career outcome expectations, and time-oriented motivation (specifically, students’ future time perspectives, or FTP) impact their sense of belonging in engineering, with grit (consistency of interest) as a moderator of these relationships.
To conduct these analyses, we used data collected over two years from sophomores, juniors, and seniors enrolled in an undergraduate civil engineering program (2017-18, n=358; 2018-19, n=556). Based on descriptive statistics and initial statistical comparisons, we confirmed our prior findings that students’ sense of belonging at the course level increased with time in the program (from sophomore to senior year), and that engineering identity increased with time in the program as well. In addition, we observed that seniors had higher perceived instrumentality, a sub-construct of FTP indicating their perceived usefulness of their courses in reaching their future goals, than sophomores and juniors. We found that course belongingness and FTP have the strongest influence on belongingness compared to other affective attributes we assessed. When identity and motivation were factored in, career outcome expectations were not influential to engineering belongingness. Finally, we found that time-oriented motivation (FTP) was also a mediator of this relationship through its influence on grit (consistency of interest).
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