Academic and professional relevance of physics: Comparing perceptions of engineering students from Mexico and Chile

Monica Quezada-Espinoza, Angeles Dominguez, Genaro Zavala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research about the perception of engineering students regarding the relevance of physics could explain the factors that influence their learning and retention in the engineering curricula. In the present study, we investigate students' perceptions of physics' relevance by comparing results by country, student semester, and gender. This is a quantitative comparative study between engineering students from Mexico and Chile. A total of 1,323 engineering students enrolled in physics courses in two private universities from those countries in their first and third semester responded to an eleven-item 5-Likert scale-type statements survey. Results showed that students in their first semester perceive the importance of physics more positively than students in their third semester. In general, students in the Mexican university have higher perceptions of physics' importance in engineering than students in the Chilean institution. Male and female students have similar perceptions about the relevance of physics. However, female students have a slightly higher perception of physics' importance for their ongoing studies in engineering than their male peers in the Mexican institution, opposite to what the results show in the Chilean institution. Reflecting upon the results and discussion of this contribution, some recommendations are: redesign physics courses to include activities in which students are in contact with real-life situations in classes, emphasizing the engineering part of the problem; promote active learning strategies in which students participate in the construction of their learning by interdisciplinary and gender-perspective approaches; and, include the student perspective in the curriculum and teaching materials by involving the higher-year students to demonstrate the relevance of physics to their first-year peers. As students are aware and perceive the relevance of their learning, they will be able to apply their knowledge in different academic careers and professional life situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1174-1185
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Educational innovation
  • Gender influences on perceptions
  • Relevance of physics to engineering
  • Student perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)


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