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Background: One facet of motivation relevant to students' learning is their perceptions of the future, including future career goals and how those perceptions influence their present actions; this is collectively referred to as their future time perspective (FTP).

Purpose/Hypothesis: This study describes the different FTPs of engineering students. We aim to help researchers and practitioners leverage students' motivations to improve learning experiences and inform future studies by providing a model of engineering students' FTP.

Design/Method: A phenomenographic approach was used to determine students' different characteristic FTPs within the context of their engineering courses. Interviews with engineering students (n=18) at a southeastern US research-intensive university were analyzed for differences and similarities in their descriptions of their FTPs.

Results: Three groups emerged from the data that were visualized as different shapes within the outcome space. Cone, a long narrow shape, represents students who narrowed down their future careers deep into the future. Cup, a wider truncated cone, represents students who have conflicting desired and realistic future careers. Bowl, a short and wide shape, represents students who have broad perceptions of their future careers and do not describe how their future goals affect their present actions.

Conclusions: Using a phenomenographic approach to examine engineering students' FTPs revealed three characteristic groups and allowed us to document how different FTPs affect students' perceptions of tasks in their engineering courses. Our findings can help educators foster students' interest in and value of learning engineering concepts and their positive perceptions of their future careers.


Integrated Engineering

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Journal of Engineering Education

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.