This paper describes recent findings within a subset of a larger project that seeks to understand how various aspects of motivation affect the development of metacognitive and problem-solving skills for engineering students. These skills are commonly understood as important in preparing students for the ever-changing global challenges engineers must face. Educators must understand affective factors in students’ development, in particular those that contribute to motivation (e.g. goals, expectations, values, and attitudes) as well as their cognitive achievements.
We seek to understand the connections between undergraduate engineering students’ motivation and the regulation of their learning. We examined, in particular, these students’ future time perspectives (FTPs), self-regulated learning (SRL) strategies, and the connections between the two. FTP refers to the views students hold about the future and how their perceptions of current tasks are affected by these views and vice versa. Three types of FTPs for undergraduate engineering students have been theorized: students with a single realistic view of the future, conflicting ideal and realistic future views, or open views of the future. SRL connects the behaviors, metacognition, and motivation of students in their learning and has been shown to help students achieve higher grades and graduate at a higher rate. By tying FTP and SRL together, the goals of this research project are to 1) qualitatively describe and document engineering students’ SRL strategies, 2) examine interactions between engineering students’ motivations, specifically their FTPs and SRL strategy use, and 3) explore goal setting as a bridge between FTP and SRL for the engineering undergraduate population.
We are conducting a sequential explanatory mixed methods study with a population of sophomore-level engineering students from multiple majors who were all enrolled in the same course in materials science. Students completed a survey designed to assess FTP as well as other motivational factors and their self-reported metacognitive strategy use. In addition to survey data, students’ written reflections on their study strategies and the goals they set when studying were collected at three points during the semester. Of the students who completed the survey and reflections (n=97), three participants were selected for semi-structured interviews to explore their FTP and SRL strategies further. A multiple case study is being constructed in which we are illustrating connections between characteristic FTP factors and SRL strategies. Students were prompted to construct paths of sub-goals that they are using to reach longer term goals. We are analyzing these paths to identify and relate the students’ FTP and SRL strategy use. Students self-reported making direct connections between their perceived instrumentality (usefulness of current tasks in terms of reaching future goals) and their SRL strategy use. Additionally, students with more well-defined future goals reported a higher use of SRL strategies than students with ill-defined future goals. A strong, well-defined set of proximal sub-goals related to a distal future goal helped to motivate participants to utilize SRL strategies in their coursework. Future work includes completing the multiple case studies and conducting a cross-case analysis.
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