Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
Industrial and Agricultural Technology
Gretchen A. Mosher
This research explored the strengths of students in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) Department at Iowa State University identified by the Clifton StrengthsFinder and the relationship between those strengths and student success. In the department, students are taught about strengths early in their program to help them better understand how to utilize their unique aptitudes to be successful, but limited analysis has been done on these data. The purpose of this research was to analyze the student strengths data to characterize patterns of strengths among the students, identify patterns of leadership domains, and explore connections of how students use their strengths. Three years of student strengths data were collected and analyzed to identify differences between gender and type of major (technology or engineering) in the department.
The first objective of this research was focused on the characterization of student strengths in the department. The goal for this part of the research was to identify patterns of strengths among students to build a foundation of what student strengths are in the department. Project data identified the frequency of occurrence for each of the individual strengths in the students' top five. Data were analyzed to determine if there were differences in strengths between gender and type of major, engineering or technology. Though previous research indicated there should be no pattern of strengths, this research identified multiple patterns of common strengths among gender and type of major. Six strengths can be used to describe the departmental students: Achiever, Adaptability, Analytical, Relator, Responsibility, and Restorative. The Restorative strength, which describes people who enjoy solving problems, carries through all groups in the department.
The second objective of this research was focused on the characterization of student leadership domains. The leadership domains are groups of strengths that describe how people work together. The goal of this research was to analyze the student strengths data to identify potential patterns of leadership domains among the students. Data were collected and analyzed to identify differences in leadership domains between gender and type of major (technology or engineering) in the department. Multiple patterns of leadership domains among the different groups in the department were identified. The Executing leadership domain occurred most frequently across all groups in the department except for technology major females. The most prevalent domain for females in Technology was Relationship-Building.
The final objective of this research was to identify how students used their strengths and if they perceived a connection between their strengths and their success. The goal of this component of the research was to interview and survey students to determine how students have used their strengths, the connection between their level of understanding and their success, and the relationship between a student's understanding of their strengths and student GPA. To provide an overview of the departmental perceptions, a survey was sent to students to determine their perceptions on the relationship between their strengths and their success. Further, a semi-structured interview was conducted with selected students to ask more in-depth questions about how students used their strengths. The survey and the interview resulted provided complementary information on participant explanations of using their strengths in academic tasks. Frequently, participants described the use of their strengths when working with others. The results from the survey showed no significant difference in the average ranking of student use of strengths in their career, in their personal life, and in their academic tasks. Finally, no there was no statistically significant connection between student understanding of and use of strengths.
Ryan, Saxon, "Characterization of student strengths, leadership domains and student perceptions on success" (2020). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 18022.