Shortly before the pandemic started to have an impact in the UK, I went to our local second-hand bookshop and bought a pile of old paperbacks to read. One of them was ‘Daisy Miller and Other Stories’ by Henry James (published in 1983 as Penguin Modern Classic). The title of this post is a quote from one of the ‘other stories’, ‘The Lesson of the Master’, which was first published in 1888. ‘Success is to have made people wriggle to another tune’ is said by the successful fictional novelist, Henry St George as words of encouragement to the young novelist Paul Ovett. It struck a chord with me because I think it sums up academic life. Success in teaching is to inspire a new level of insight and way of thinking amongst our students; while, success in research is to change the way in which society, or at least a section of it, thinks or operates, i.e. to have made people wriggle to another tune.
Success is a multiplicative function of ability and motivation [Chan et al, 1998 & Pinder 1984] and in turn motivation requires positive ‘situation expectations’ and good ‘achievement striving’, which is the extent to which individuals take their work seriously [Norris & Wright, 2003]. Hence, we can motivate engineering students by setting engineering science in a professional context and connecting it to something familiar according to Sheppard et al .
Self-efficacy is a ‘belief in one’s capabilities’ and is closely related to student success [Marra et al, 2009]. There are four sources of self-efficacy that contribute to success: mastery experiences; social persuasion; psychological state; and vicarious experiences [Bandera, 1997].
Mastery experiences include, for example, the positive experience of completing a course or a project. Vicarious experiences are those gained via observation of someone else’s engagement and their effect on self-efficacy is dependent on similarity of the observer and observed.
The bottom-line is that self-efficacy is powerful motivational construct relating to choices to engage in class activities and to persist in engineering [Hackett et al, 1992]. So, to create a learning environment that motivates all students to acquire knowledge, it is necessary provide opportunities for all sources of self-efficacy to contribute to student success. This implies providing opportunities for mastery and vicarious experiences in a supportive environment that avoids any negative stereotyping.
Using a variety of everyday engineering examples provides a level of familiarity that lowers anxiety levels and improves the psychological state of students. Demonstrating everyday examples in class, as part of the Engage step in the 5Es [see ‘Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate’ on August 1st, 2018], allows students to have a vicarious experience as does Elaborating examples for them. While allowing students to Evaluate their own learning provides the opportunity for mastery experiences. These factors are probably one reason why using Everyday Engineering Examples embedded in 5E lesson plans leads to a higher level of student engagement and learning.
Bandura A, Self-efficacy: the exercise of control, Freeman & Co, New York, 1997.
Chan D, Schmitt N, Sacco JM; DeShon RP. Understanding pretest and posttest reactions to cognitive ability and personality tests, J. Applied Psychology, 83(3): 471-485, 1998
Hackett G, Betz NE, Casas JM, Rocha-Singa IA, Gender ethinicity and social cognitive factors predicting the academic achievement of students in engineering, J. Counselling Psychology, 39(4):527-538, 1992.
Marra RM, Rodgers KA, Shen D, and Bogue B, Women engineering students and self-efficacy: a multi-year, multi-institution study of women engineering student self-efficacy, J. Engineering Education, 99(1):27-38, 2009.
Norris SA, Wright D. Moderating effects of achievement striving and situational optimism on the relationship between ability and performance outcomes of college students, Research in Higher Education, 44(3):327-346, 2003.
Pinder CC, Work motivation, Scott, Foresman Publishing, Glenview, IL, 1984.
Sheppard S, Macatangay K, Colby A, Sullivan WM, Educating engineers: designing for the future of the field, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA, 2009.
CALE #8 [Creating A Learning Environment: a series of posts based on a workshop given periodically by Pat Campbell and Eann Patterson in the USA supported by NSF and the UK supported by HEA]