Motivation Intervention Through Calculus Tasks with Science and Engineering Applications
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Although national interest has been focused on increasing STEM graduates, calculus courses still pose a challenge for most STEM major students. As recent statistics show, only half of the students are successful in calculus courses. Many times, students in these courses do not see the relevancy of the material to their future careers and this inability to connect the two can be a cause of a lack of motivation. Recent research studies suggest that interventions might be a useful tool to improve student motivation. The purpose of this quasi-experimental research study is to measure the impact of an intervention on three student motivational aspects - performance expectations, utility value, and interest. The intervention consisted of the engagement of students in calculus tasks with specific applications they will encounter in subsequent science and engineering courses. They were designed to explicitly connect calculus concepts to other disciplines. Six Calculus – I sections were selected for this study, three were randomly assigned to a treatment group where the intervention was implemented twice during a semester and student motivational aspects were measured through surveys. The results indicate that the impact of the intervention on student motivation was not statistically significant by considering instructor as a random effect. However, there were some instances where the intervention significantly influenced student utility value and interest. However, student performance expectations constantly decreased throughout the semester. Moreover, the results showed that the intervention improved female students’ utility value and interest more than it did male students. The implications and limitations of this study also discussed in further detail.