Advancing student motivation and course interest through a utility value intervention in an engineering design context

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


Student motivation is essential for academic success. Researchers and educators across broad educational spectrums have identified important factors effecting undergraduate student motivation. Understanding and improving student motivation is critical for educators to keep students engaged and motivated. Student motivation is multifaceted and complex with interest as one of many factors related to motivation and motived behavior. Student interest in course material can be supported by helping them understand the value and relevance of the material to their professional goals. This study uses expectancy-value framework to understand students' perceptions of the value and relevance of course material and how these perceptions influence interest and academic performance. One means for understanding perceived value is to assess the perception of the utility value, or the view of usefulness, of the task to their present or future goals. Educators can encourage value by asking students to write about the relevance of the course material to their life through structured utility value interventions. This study compared the performance, interest, and motivation between students who participated in structured utility value interventions and those in a control group who did not while enrolled in a third-year multidisciplinary engineering design course. Secondary research questions explored the effectiveness for low-performing students and the frequency at which connections were made. Students completed a survey at the beginning of the course and near completion of the course. Data was gathered during the initial semester of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students' interest in the engineering design process and in the course material increased significantly for students writing to the utility value prompts. Perceived utility value was shown to be a significant predictor in student interest. Academic performance outcomes were not effected by participating in the intervention. Low-performing students did not experience benefit from the interventions. This study builds on and extends previous research on the effectiveness of utility value interventions in impacting student interest and motivation within an engineering design context. Practical application of the results provides educators a simple, cost-effective tool for increasing student interest and motivation in engineering.



Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Education)


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