Hot Topic: Motivating Factors for Choosing Engineering

My featured research article for this month is Motivating Factors for Choosing Engineering as Reported by Racial and Ethnic Minorities by Randa Shehab, Susan Walden, and Emily Wellborn from the University of Oklahoma. This paper was presented at the American Society of Engineering Education conference in June 2015.

The study uses Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) to understand what motivates minority students to major in engineering. Pre-existing semi-structured interviews from African American, Native American, Hispanic American and Asian American engineering students at a large research institution were coded to uncover the influence of students’ self-efficacy, interest and projection of career outcomes on their decision to major in engineering.

The results suggest that with this particular population of students interest was the most important factor in choosing engineering and self-efficacy was the least important factor. Social supports were also important and these were manifested by the support of family and friends.

I am choosing this article because it demonstrates how a model of career choice can be useful for framing research studies.  It also highlights how existing data can be reanalyzed to uncover new insights.

The study also raises interesting questions:

  • How might the results change over time? Might some factors be more crucial to students when they enter engineering and other factors more important to retain them in engineering?
  • Are these results institution-specific? Or might we find the same result at a variety of institutions? Would there be differences between students attending Predominantly White Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions?
  • Is SCCT an appropriate theory to use with this population of students?

Dr. Ruth Streveler | Research and Publications Thought Leader




Dr. Ruth Streveler | Thought Leader | Research & Publications


Shehab, R. L., & Walden, S. E., & Wellborn, E. E. (2015, June), Motivating Factors for Choosing Engineering as Reported by Racial and Ethnic Minority Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24507.