What makes an engineer? Statistical analysis of factors contributing to engineering disposition




Higginbotham, Ashlyn

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Being able to determine which qualities and experiences lead students to be more inclined to identify as an engineer, maker, or designer can help to further understand retention rates among engineering students. We have investigated factors that may influence engineering and engineering technology students’ professional disposition towards engineering, designing, and making. The factors considered include metacognitive awareness skills, prior making experiences, student demographics, and engineering design self-efficacy, which examines students’ self-efficacy through four lenses: motivation, confidence, anxiety, and expectation of success. This thesis used data collected from a survey instrument conducted as part of courses incorporating makerspace-based projects over two years. The data was then filtered to analyze only the engineering and engineering technology students’ initial responses which resulted in a sample size of 94 Texas State students. The dataset was analyzed to explore the following research questions: To what extent are students engineering design self-efficacy, metacognitive awareness, and/or prior making experiences correlated with their professional dispositions to be an engineer, designer, or maker? To what extent do students’ demographics influence these correlations? As the data was not normally distributed, it was analyzed with nonparametric statistics. Key results indicated a moderate positive correlation trend among all three professional dispositions (maker, designer, engineer) with previous experience with tools. This trend indicates that students who have more previous experience with makerspace tools are more likely to self-identify as one or more of these dispositions. Further, the maker and designer professional dispositions both had a moderately positive correlation trend with student’s self-efficacy measures of confidence and motivation to conduct engineering design. This trend indicates that students with stronger dispositions to identify as makers and designers had higher confidence and motivation to conduct engineering design. When examining the intersection of factors, it was found that the strongest correlations between metacognitive awareness and engineering design self-efficacy were between the students’ motivation to conduct engineering design and their tendency to use procedural knowledge, conditional knowledge, information management, and debugging strategies in their learning styles. When comparing between student demographic groups, there were few statistically significant differences. The notable trend was by gender and students’ engineering design self-efficacy. Male students reported significantly higher engineering design self-efficacy scores through the lenses of their motivation and their confidence. Overall, these findings indicate students with more prior making experiences as well as higher levels of engineering design self-efficacy tend to be more likely to have an engineering, designing, and/or making disposition.



professional disposition, Honors College


Higginbotham, A. (2021). What makes an engineer? Statistical analysis of factors contributing to engineering disposition (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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