Studies reveal that grades have a short-term impact on students’ self-efficacy, motivation, and decision making. Earning high grades has become a focal point for engineering students to secure three types of opportunities: internships, post-graduation employment, and graduate school acceptance. Nonetheless, the desire to attain a competitive grade-point-average may lead to negative psychosocial effects such as increased mental exertion, physical exhaustion, anxiety, and overall lack of work-life balance. In this paper, the authors extend their prior study on the impact of grades in engineering education. The first study was conducted in the spring of 2019 at a tier one, small private research university in Texas with the intention of understanding the mindset on grades before, during, and at the end of the semester. The study extended herein aims to explore the emotional and academic impact grades have on engineering undergraduate students in a minority-serving institution, and further understand the issues plaguing engineering disciplines such as retention, completion, and overall well-being. In this regard, a self-developed, open-ended survey was conducted with a cohort of 60 students enrolled in Rigid Body Dynamics and Engineering Analysis to understand their perspective on grades before, during, and at the end of the semester. The Beck Anxiety Inventory was implemented to determine anxiety levels of the participants. Preliminary results reveal every student presented some sort of common symptoms of anxiety such as the inability to relax, fear of worst happening, nervousness, feeling scared, fear of losing control, hot/cold sweats, and indigestion at the beginning of the semester. Twenty-five students responded feeling mildly nervous but were not bothered much, eleven students felt moderately nervous which was not pleasant at time, while ten students were severely nervous about grades and were extremely bothered at the beginning of the semester. During the semester, students expressed being uncomfortable and disappointment when grades were not as expected. 51% of the participants indicated the need to study more, 25.4% needed to pay more attention during class, while 10% stopped caring for the class.
Marquez, E., & Garcia, S. (2023, June), Keeping Calm and Staying Balanced: Exploring the Academic Pressures Faced by Engineering Students to Attain High Grades and Their Impact on Mental Health Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. https://peer.asee.org/43908
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