Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

5-2019

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

Counseling and Human Development

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

Snyder, Kate

Committee Member

Adelson, Jill

Committee Member

Valentine, Jeffrey

Committee Member

Ralston, Patricia

Abstract

Many students are leaving their engineering programs as early as the first semester of their undergraduate studies. Although some of the factors related to engineering retention are largely academic, others are tied closely to students’ beliefs or perceptions. Student perceptions data are useful, but often overlooked by researchers who wish to take a person-centered approach to uncover profiles of student beliefs, both adaptive and maladaptive, when it comes to understanding engineering retention. The sample consisted of full-time undergraduate engineering students (N = 834) in the first semester of their undergraduate engineering programs. I used latent transition analysis (LTA) to examine the latent profiles that emerged from measures of student beliefs, including expectations of brilliance, perceived belonging uncertainty, and self-efficacy. Additionally, changes were examined in latent profile memberships over the course of the students’ first semesters in their engineering programs. As anticipated, both adaptive and maladaptive latent statuses emerged at the beginning and end of students’ first semester. Contrary to my original hypothesis, students were more likely to transition to more-adaptive latent statuses or remain in adaptive latent statuses across transition periods, as opposed to transitioning to less-adaptive latent statuses. Additionally, students belonging to specific demographic subgroups were more likely to be classified into less-adaptive latent statuses, including females, students who identified as Black/African American, first-generation college students, students from low-income households, and students who were enrolled in a lower-level, first-semester mathematics course. Finally, students who were best classified into the less-adaptive latent statuses at the end of the first semester of their engineering programs were less likely to remain in their undergraduate engineering programs one year later. Ultimately, the results emphasize the importance of examining student perceptions data when designing interventions related to engineering retention. Researchers also should consider examining the interactions between a student’s environment, latent profiles of perceptions, and the student’s behavior when seeking to understand undergraduate engineering retention.

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