The Gendered Effect of Cooperative Education, Contextual Support, and Self-Efficacy on Undergraduate Retention
Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 103, No. 4, pp. 599-624, 2014
51 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2015
Date Written: 2014
Longstanding data have established that women earn about 20% of undergraduate degrees in engineering. It has also been reported that women students have lower academic self-efficacy in the STEM fields than men. In this study, we seek to probe into these findings through a longitudinal design that explores whether cooperative education can improve the retention of women (as well as of men) in their undergraduate studies.
This study examines the effect on retention of demographic characteristics, cooperative education, contextual support, and three dimensions of self-efficacy – work, career, and academic – and their change over time. It incorporates longitudinal measures as well as a data check at the end of the students’ fifth year.
Respondents filled out 20-minute surveys, spaced out over approximately one year during three separate time periods. A number of new scales were introduced and validated in the study. The data were submitted to successive analyses over each time period.
The findings verified the study’s pathways model. Academic achievement and academic self-efficacy as well as contextual support in all time periods were found to be critical to retention. Work self-efficacy, developed by students between their second and fourth years, was also an important factor in retention, though it was strongly tied to the students’ participation in co-op programs. Higher retention was associated with an increased numbers of co-ops completed by students.
This study has revealed that the reciprocal relationships between work self-efficacy and co-op participation and between academic self-efficacy and academic achievement play a critical role in retention.
Keywords: student retention, self-efficacy, work self-efficacy, cooperative education, contextual support, women in engineering
JEL Classification: I20, I21, J24, M12, M53
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation