Creativity as a Factor in Persistence and Academic Achievement of Engineering Undergraduates

Sara A. Atwood, Elizabethtown College
Jean E. Pretz, Elizabethtown College


Background: To date, there has been little research to establish how creativity relates to engineering student persistence and academic achievement. Purpose: This study used creativity to predict engineering student persistence and achievement relative to demographics, academic aptitude, and personality. It further evaluated those predictors for consistency throughout the undergraduate engineering program. Design/Method: Participants were entering first-year engineering students in 2011 and 2012. Academic aptitude was measured by high school rank and SAT scores. Personality was characterized using the Big Five inventory, which measures the traits of Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness. Creativity was assessed using student artifacts on three tasks and a modified creativity questionnaire. Outcome measures were students' persistence and GPA over four years. Multinomic logistic regression and multivariate regression were used to model the relationship between predictor variables and persistence and achievement. Results: SAT math, high school rank, and Conscientiousness were predictors of persistence and achievement. Creativity measures did not predict GPA, and creative self-efficacy was negatively related to engineering student persistence in the major. Conclusions: Our results suggest that creativity is not appropriately taught or rewarded in some engineering curricula, and those engineering students who view themselves as highly creative are less likely to graduate in engineering.