The Association between Identity and Student Engagement in Engineering Undergraduate Students




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Background: Scholars have been becoming increasingly interested in understanding engineering identity among college students as a means to promote student engagement and preserve students in engineering majors. However, there is a lack of psychometrically strong instrument to empirically assess engineering identity. Moreover, the importance of multidimensional nature of student engagement has not been highlighted in engineering education research. Consequently, little is known about the association between engineering identity and student engagement. Purpose: Drawing on the identity formation theory (Crocetti, Rubini, & Meeus, 2008), the purpose of this cross-sectional study was twofold: (1) to adapt and validate the Utrecht-Management of Identity Commitments Scale (U-MICS) to assess college engineering identity and (2) to explore the relations of engineering identity with three facets of college student engagement (i.e., effort, course choice, and persistence). Methods: Two hundred and forty-one engineering undergraduate students (Mage = 22.36 years; 78.4% males) in a large southern urban public university in the United States completed paper-and-pencil and online surveys assessing their identity and student engagement. Results: The findings of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) confirmed the three-factor structure of engineering identity (i.e., commitment, in-depth exploration, and reconsideration of commitment) among engineering students by excluding one item related to in-depth exploration in the original scale. Good internal consistency was found for each subscale (α = .73 to .88). Regarding validity evidence for the U-MICS, results of Pearson correlation showed that commitment and in-depth exploration were positively correlated with self-efficacy (r = .19 to .42) and subjective task values (r = .47 to .56), whereas reconsideration of commitment was negatively correlated to self-efficacy (r = -.28) and subjective tasks values (r = -.19 to -.36). Juniors scored significantly higher in commitment than sophomores, and Asian students had higher level of reconsideration of commitment than White students. Engineering students who transferred from a two-year college scored higher on commitment than students who started their higher education in a four-year college or students who transferred from another four-year college. In terms of the association between engineering identity and student engagement, results from structural equation modeling (SEM) showed that each dimension of engineering identity had independent contribution to different facets of student engagement. More importantly, commitment and in-depth exploration were equally important predictors of student engagement by addressing collinearity problems through a model comparison approach proposed by Marsh, Dowson, Pietsch, and Walker (2004). Conclusion: This study demonstrates satisfactory psychometric properties of U-MICS for engineering undergraduate students. Additionally, this study advances existing literature by providing empirical evidence with regard to the associations between engineering identity and different facets of student engagement.



Identity, Engineering