Students Psychological Type and Success in Different Engineering Programs

A longitudinal study of a seven-year cohort of engineering students at The University of Western Ontario aims to document student academic success in the university engineering program and subsequent satisfaction in the engineering profession in terms of personality type as reported by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Results for the full seven-year cohort show that success in first year is more probable, certainly for the weaker students, if their personality type is I_TJ. Also, in a crosscultural comparison with a similar group of American students the Canadian cohort of entry students is significantly more I__P.

The graduation data for the first five years of the cohort show that successful graduation in engineering is also associated with I_TJ personality types and that graduation within four years is correlated with INTJ types. Data is also presented regarding student’s choice of engineering discipline in terms of their MBTI type. A continuing project at The University of Western Ontario (UWO) is investigating the student’s choice of engineering discipline and subsequent academic performance in that discipline in terms of their personality preferences as recorded by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Later this year, the study will be extended beyond the university setting to UWO alumni who are practising as professional engineers in order to relate their job description and job satisfaction to their personality type. The total UWO student cohort who have completed the MBTI consists of engineering entry students over a seven-year period. All of these students have now completed the first year of the UWO engineering program, which is common for all engineering disciplines. The MBTI profiles of this seven-year cohort of Canadian students described both at entry to the firstyear program and also at successfully passing from the first-year program is compared below with similar results from an ASEE[1] cohort of American engineering students, enabling some cross-cultural comparisons. After the common first-year engineering program, the students at UWO select one of five available engineering disciplines (chemical, civil, electrical, materials or mechanical) which they pursue until graduation. Some students from the full seven-year student cohort have not yet progressed to graduation, so the results in this paper, concerning choice of engineering discipline and success in that discipline, are for the 1314 students from the first five years only of the total seven-year cohort. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator The MBTI is a self-report questionnaire based on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. It feeds back to respondents in a useful and organised form their expressed personality preferences. There are eight of these preferences which are paired along four bi-polar scales. There are no right or wrong responses and all eight preferences are equally valid.However, the preferences of one type may match the demands of a particular situation better than the preferences of other types. Extraverts(E) are those who take a broad-brush approach to life with quick action and who are energized by people and things in the external world while introverts (I) are reflective and more energized by ideas in their inner world. Perceiving styles are divided into sensing (S), which emphasises facts, details and reality and intuition (N) which focuses on ideas, implications and possibilities. The decision-making process for those with a thinking (T) preference is objectively based on logic and analysis and for those with a feeling (F) preference is based more on personal values involving societal and human factors. The fourth dimension reflects a person’s lifestyle attitude: the judging (J) attitude focuses on planning and deciding whereas the perception (P) attitude is more oriented to changing possibilities and new developments. In total, the MBTI describes sixteen possible personality types such as ISTJ or ENFP, etc. which result from the dynamic interplay of the four preferences. These sixteen MBTI types are usually displayed as a 4 X 4 arrangement known as a Type Table. MBTI type tables for different groups of people may readily be compared using the Selection Ratio Type Table (SRTT) software[2], which uses 2 X 2 chi-square tests to check for significant differences between the two groups.

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