Research: Current Research

The Role of Intentional Self-Regulation in Achievement in Engineering

This collaborative engineering education research grant was awarded to the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University and Northwestern University. The question being asked is: Are intentional Self-regulation skills (often termed soft skills) of particular importance to engineers as they develop their knowledge base and launch their careers?

The proposed research is a first-ever assessment of the relations among

  1. Engineering achievement among male and female students beginning through advanced undergraduate engineering students (as indexed by GPA for engineering courses);
  2. The status of their "hard" (intellectual) skills (indexed by SAT scores and GPA�s for science and math courses); and
  3. The "soft" (life, motivational, or pragmatic) skills that have been identified in developmental research to be linked significantly to school achievement and life success.

The study will use a cross-sectional design to assess a random sample of about 200 sophomore through senior engineering students on the above-noted sets of measures. In addition, the same assessments will be made with a matched comparison sample of about 200 male and female, sophomore through senior, arts and science students, with non-math/science majors (i.e., with majors in the social sciences or in the humanities).

The contribution of the proposed research lies in the attention paid to the role that intentional self-regulation skills may play in successful engineering education. The results of this research will provide to engineering educators, to policy makers, and to business and industry leaders heretofore-unavailable scientific information about how to assess and integrate key features of the development of the "whole person" � his or her cognitive, motivational, emotional, and behavioral characteristics � in promoting engineering achievement across college years.

The broader impacts resulting from the proposed research include providing a model for future engineering education and education research and a baseline against which future educational innovations may be measured. It will also help faculty better balance the hard (science and math) and soft skill sets in the undergraduate curriculum.