Measuring Disciplinary Perceptions of Engineering from a Cultural Lens: A Validation of an Instrument in a Research Technical University

Homero G. Murzi, Juan M. Cruz


Engineering culture is a complex phenomenon that needs to be understood to promote the value of professional skills and not only the technical skills that have been traditionally valued in engineering. This study investigates ways to identify patterns of cultural traits in undergraduate engineering students, by using and validating an instrument originally developed to measure national culture. This study was conducted in three phases: in Phase 1, we validated an instrument to measure engineering culture based on Hofstede’s model of national culture. In this phase, we conducted an exploratory factor analysis and a reliability analysis with responses of 1261 undergraduate students. In phase 2, we identified how the dimensions in Hofstede’s model mapped and differed between academic engineering disciplines. To accomplish that goal, we conducted descriptive statistics and an analysis of the variance of responses of 794 engineering students. In phase 3, we analyzed if some of Hofstede’s dimensions are inherent to prospective engineering students or if they were influenced by their specific engineering programs. In phase 3, we collected data from 1,330 first-year engineering students and compared them with data from the same students at the end of their first year. Moreover, for three specific majors, we compared them with data of 261 senior students. Results demonstrated the validity of the instrument in academic disciplines and showed that the uncertainty avoidance dimension of Hofstede’s model differed between three engineering majors (i.e., ECE, ISE, and CS). This dimension did not differ after the first year but changed in the senior year.

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