Examining doctoral degree attrition rates: Using expectancy-value theory to compare student values and faculty supports

Mayra S. Artiles, Holly M. Matusovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


US degree completion data show that historically underrepresented students and women are less likely to complete doctorate degrees, particularly in engineering. While there are many studies on persistence, few compare student and faculty perspectives especially in engineering. The purpose of this case study is to compare what experiences motivate doctoral students and what experiences faculty aim to provide based on what faculty believe motivates students, particularly for women and historically underrepresented students in the United States. Drawing on Eccles' Expectancy Value Theory, we answer the questions: What relationships exist between ability beliefs and subjective task values for underrepresented students persisting in earning a doctorate in engineering? How do student and faculty beliefs compare? Our findings show that while both students and faculty agree on ability beliefs to remain motivated, they showed differences in the value they assigned to doctoral experiences; students focus on attainment value and faculty on utility value. Our findings suggest that both advisors and students should prioritize clear communication in their needs and intentions to better support student motivation in the doctoral degree process. While the context of this study is in the US, practitioners can find parallels in our findings to other contexts and their respective underrepresented populations. Our findings have the indirect impact that supporting the motivation of underrepresented students in particular can contribute to increasing diversity in doctorate degree completion rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1071-1081
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Doctoral education
  • Graduate students
  • Minorities
  • Motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)


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