Work in Progress: Utilizing the MUSIC Instrument to Gauge Progress in First-Year Engineering Students

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences; Department of Engineering Fundamentals


One of the "Grand Challenges in Engineering Education"is to engage students in their own learning. Student engagement is widely seen as a necessary component driving the success of active learning methodologies. The Music Model of academic motivation was developed as a means to make the human motivation literature accessible to instructors interested in improving courses to increase student motivation and engagement. The model has a reliable and validated survey instrument that assesses 5 components of academic motivation. The model has been applied in two contexts relevant to our current project: in course design and improvement to assess the impact of changes on student motivation and learning, and second, it is used to examine students' motivational perceptions and their relationship to other learning-related constructs. MUSIC has been used in K12 through higher education, and across a variety of fields.In this Work in Progress report, we had two purposes: First, we sought to test the use of the Music Model in an engineering course, since little research has been conducted in engineering courses to date. Second, we sought set the stage for developing a community of practice focused on student engagement with a common and straightforward assessment methodology for the first-year engineering community. Our broad goal is thus to leverage the MUSIC components as one metric for gauging improvement of student engagement for our own first-year engineering program, then eventually a community wide tool for first-year engineering programs broadly. The MUSIC scale inventory data (n=221) was collected electronically in 3 sections of a first-year engineering course at a mid-western technological university. A confirmatory factor analysis replicated the 5-factor MUSIC Model. An ANOVA revealed no differences in student motivations between our three-course sections. This result validates our ability to offer similar experiences across sections and instructors within our first-year course. Multiple comparisons between factor scores demonstrated significantly higher motivation reported on both the caring and success factors as compared to the others. In addition, the interest motivation factor was significantly lower than all other factors. These findings demonstrate the utility of the Music Model within engineering education. We discuss future research to develop a process for instructors to understand the results and make formative decisions for future course iterations. Further, we suggest future research re-establishing the link between the various motivational factors and educational outcomes such as GPA, course grades, retention in STEM, etc. We propose that global events, such as the pandemic, may have resulted in changes in students' priorities regarding education, thereby altering previous findings regarding the importance of specific motivational factors on educational outcomes.

Publication Title

Proceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE