Engineering and Physics Faculty Research and Publications

Title

Expectations in Engineering Programs: Between Social Construction and Internalized Experience

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

6-2020

Abstract

Prior research established that expectations play a significant role in students’ educational experiences. Academic and non-academic expectations can contribute to students’ stress and anxiety, and have been shown to impact achievement and retention. This study uses ethnographic methods to investigate how expectations are socially constructed in engineering programs and how students’ come to internalize these expectations. Data was collected in ten focus groups with a total of 38 participants at two universities with different institutional characteristics. The qualitative analysis drew on constant comparative methods and proceeded from topic coding of sources of expectations to interpretive coding of mechanisms in which students internalized experiences. More specifically, sources of expectations were identified as academics, superiors, peers, extra-curricular, and from outside the major. The rich account of students lived experiences show a complex interplay of expectations from multiple sources. The mechanisms of compounding, conflicting, and triangulating expectations show that the interactions of expectations can amplify their emotional impacts on students. The results indicate that students judge their own performance or belonging in engineering relative to the systemic functioning of expectations. For educators, this insight has profound implications on how we communicate performance standards without inadvertently reinforcing social performance expectations that can contribute to problematic cultural features of engineering learning environments.

Comments

This paper was presented at the 2020 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Virtual Annual Conference held June 22-26, 2020.

Copyright held by

American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

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