Motivating Factors for Choosing Engineering as Reported by Racial and Ethnic Minority Students.

We examined the pre-college factors that motivated racial and ethnic minority students to pursue a major in engineering and how these factors related to personal or professional goals. A set of over 150 semi-structured interviews with African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Native American engineering students was analyzed to determine what influenced each of the students to enter engineering. For this analysis, a pair of undergraduate research assistants applied an iterative-inductive coding process to identify individual factors and trends. Trends related to Social Cognitive Career Theory emerged but with variances both within each minority group and across the four groups.

Social Cognitive Career Theory associates career choice with an individual’s self-efficacy in that field, interests that align with the field, and outcome expectations congruent with the career or the path to reach the career. Furthermore, the theory posits that self-efficacy is enhanced or undermined by social supports and barriers that are present as the choice is made and re-made along the path toward the career. From this interview set, we found that engineering self-efficacy did not figure strongly in the students’ choices of pursuing an engineering major and career. For research participants across the four minority groups, interests and social supports were highly influential. Outcome expectations, as related to employment prospects, were also highly influential for Asian American students, though only moderately influential for the other three groups of students.

This paper will provide a detailed examination of the differential trends within and across groups and recommend strategies to consider for encouraging young racial and ethnic minority students toward future careers in engineering.

Available from: ASEE Archive

Shehab, R. L., S. E. Walden and E. E. Wellborn (2015). Motivating Factors for Choosing Engineering as Reported by Racial and Ethnic Minority Students. Proceedings of ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, WA, American Society for Engineering Education. DOI: 10.18260/p.24507

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