Graduate Research and Discovery Symposium (GRADS)


External Experiences and Student Motivation: Do student experiences outside the classroom really matter?


Adam N. Kim


Lisa C. Benson

Document Type



Engineering and Science Education

Publication Date

Spring 2013


Experiences outside the classroom are thought to shape students’ understanding of who they can become and what is needed to reach their goals. Additionally, evidence shows external experiences provide contextualization for academic endeavors, and can increase persistence in engineering. One area that is affected by these experiences is student motivation. Motivation is a dynamic construct linked to student performance in and out of the learning environment. The goal of this work is to determine how the motivations of students who have had external experiences differ from those who have not had those experiences. Students in second year engineering courses in two majors (bioengineering and mechanical engineering) were surveyed on their expectations of major-related tasks, perceptions of future and present tasks/goals within their major, and self-efficacy toward solving problems in their courses. Results indicate that having an external experience correlates to significantly increased self-efficacy, and that students with laboratory research experiences have significantly higher GPAs. Increased student self-efficacy may explain why students persist longer after having an external experience. Findings with respect to students’ self-efficacy will guide further qualitative research into students’ motivations towards short- and long-term goals/tasks, with interview questions focused on external as well as classroom experiences.

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