This paper reports on an NSF, IUSE:RED project that is focused on integrating elements of needs finding and design into courses throughout all four years of the engineering curriculum. The project is based on the theory that providing students with increased opportunities to hone their skills in these areas in a manner that is continuous throughout their progression through an engineering program should increase their self-efficacy beliefs , valuation of engineering knowledge and skills, and the extent to which they see themselves as engineers (i.e., engineering identity). This should, in turn, increase students’ engagement with curricular and extracurricular engineering related content and activities and ultimately retention, persistence, and the overall quality of learning. Toward this end faculty on this project have developed a set of teaching strategies grounded in design, problem, and project-based learning (Chandrasekaran, Long, & Joordens, 2015; Hmelo-silver, 2004) and have begun implementing them in selected engineering courses and a newly developed Design Fellows Program. The Design Fellows program is an intensive design experience that a small number of selected students are able to participate in for five weeks. This paper reports on the experiences of students who participated in the Design Fellows Program in the Summer of 2019. A mixed method research design that included a validated pre and post test survey (Walton, McCullough, & Knisley, 2019), and a focus group was used to (1) gather descriptive information, (2) evaluate change in the students’ feelings of self-efficacy, valuation of engineering knowledge and skills, and engineering identities, and (3) gain a deeper understanding of how these social psychological motivators of learning are experienced by students and how they see them functioning in their everyday lives.
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