A great deal of research within science and engineering education
revolves around academic success and retention of science and
engineering students. It is well known that South Africa is
experiencing, for various reasons, an acute shortage of engineers.
Therefore, we think it is important to understand the factors that
contribute to attrition rates in university students, and
engineering students in particular. The theoretical framework for
the present study draws on self-regulation theory, with particular
reference to the role of self-efficacy and academic commitment.
Participants comprised 127 engineering students in the second
year of an augmented programme. They completed the Academic
Commitment Scale and the Materials Science Self-efficacy Scale.
Statistical analysis included correlation and regression analysis to
test the hypothesis that self-efficacy and academic commitment
would predict the semester mark. Our results indicated that the
self-efficacy and meaningfulness of materials science are
significant predictors of investment, and that investment predicts
the final semester mark. We discuss the results in terms of
debates about throughput and retention for engineering students
and also implications for teaching and learning.