Creating an instrument to measure leadership, change, and synthesis in engineering undergraduates

Benjamin Ahn, Monica F. Cox, Jeremi London, Osman Cekic, Jiabin Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background: Studies have highlighted the importance for engineers of leadership, adaptability to change, and synthesis of multiple perspectives. Yet only a few studies and instruments have explored the operational definitions of these concepts for engineering undergraduates. Purpose: The goals of this research were to identify observable outcomes that engineering undergraduate students should demonstrate related to leadership, adaptability to change, and synthesis abilities and to create an instrument to assess them. Design/Method: In the first phase of the study, 12 engineers working in academia and 11 engineers working in industry were interviewed. The transcripts were analyzed using a constant comparative method to determine constructs related to leadership, change, and synthesis. In the second phase of the study, survey items were developed and administered to 753 engineering undergraduate students in the spring of 2011. An exploratory factor analysis determined the common factors across the survey items. Results: The mixed methods approach resulted in the creation of 45 survey items categorized into four factors: Being an Engineering Leader, Engineer's Impact on Society and Economy, Engineering Leadership, and Development of an Adaptor to Change. Conclusion: This study operationalized leadership, change, and synthesis within the context of engineering education. This operationalization may help to define learning outcomes and competencies for engineering leadership programs, and may provide faculty with an assessment tool for their students. Students may also use the tool to self-assess their leadership, change, and synthesis abilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-136
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Engineering
  • Instrument development
  • Leadership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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