Background: This research paper examines engineering stress culture in the context of project-based learning engineering programs at the university level. Multiple authors have reported that the culture of engineering and engineering education can be stressful and exclusive. A study conducted by Jensen and Cross  found that measures of inclusion such as "Department Caring" and "Department Pride" were negatively correlated with stress, anxiety, and depression. We used the approach developed by Jensen and Cross to examine stress culture in the context of three project-based learning engineering programs.
Purpose: Our goal was to establish a baseline of measures of mental health (stress, anxiety, and depression), professional identity, and inclusion among students in entirely project-based engineering and computer science programs.
Design/Method: Our study used the instruments developed by Jensen and Cross to gather data from the perspective of students pursuing integrated engineering and computer science degrees in entirely project-based learning environments. Data collection and analysis for this study were informed by the methodology used by Jensen and Cross, allowing us to establish baseline measures for stress culture within the context of project-based learning environments in engineering and computer science.
Results: We present results from statistical analyses reporting measures of mental health (stress, anxiety, depression), professional identity, and perceptions of inclusion among students pursuing engineering and computer science degrees in entirely project-based learning environments. Students in the project-based programs reported less stress and depression and a stronger vision of an engineering career than students in the Jensen and Cross study. The anxiety and professional identity results were comparable with the original Jensen and Cross results.
Conclusions: Although the sample size for this study is smaller than that of the original Jensen and Cross study, the results show the strong potential impact of project-based engineering programs. Future work will examine performance changes as a function of time and population size, as well as triangulating and supporting quantitative results with qualitative data.
2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition
Chase, L., & Sleezer, C., & Sleezer, R., & Soledad, M. (2022, August), Engineering Stress Culture in Project-based Engineering Programs. Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/40526
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Copyright © 2022 American Society for Engineering Education.
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