June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
A Journey to Integrate Spatial Visualization into Community College Engineering and Technology Programs to Increase Student Diversity and Retention. Abstract: The ability to think in 3D space is expected in most engineering, math, science, and technology courses. The ability to think in 3D space is also expected in careers of engineers and technicians. But it is not taught. It is the unspoken ‘genetic’ expectation for engineering and technology students. Without it, students are categorically dismissed as unfit for engineering or technology. In research spanning 14 semesters since 2009, Tidewater Community College (TCC) has proactively confronted diversity and retention in their engineering and technology programs by offering spatial visualization training. Through a journey of various training formats both engineering transfer and engineering technology student populations have shown a significant need for and benefit from spatial visualization training. TCC found 40% of engineer and technology students arrive unprepared in spatial visualization skills. This is a significantly more prevalent issue (and an opportunity) than traditional 4-year engineering and technology student populations exhibit. At TCC we have found the spatial visualization training resources from Dr. Sheryl Sorby is effective in remediating both the engineering and technology students. The training produces a significant improvement in PSVT:R scores. The training significantly reduces the failure rate and withdrawal rate in the graphics-based credit bearing course, and the training also improves the grade earned in the credit bearing course. The under prepared student pool appears over-represented with women and with non-white males. And finally, we have found that a volunteer participation policy is ineffective. The data and research in the significance of spatial visualization as a predictor of success, and a trainable trait is already presented elsewhere. TCC has attempted to duplicate these benefits and impact in student success and retention by a variety of pedagogical strategies including ten weeks of 1-hour sessions, four weeks of 2.5-hour sessions, five weeks of 2-hour sessions, asynchronous online, and flipped classroom formats. All of these formats worked. However, voluntary student participation has been very low in each of these strategies. It is difficult at the community college to replicate the curriculum integration practices of many 4-year schools to conduct mandatory assessment of all incoming freshman students and force enrollment of low scorers into an additional 15 hour, 1-credit course. Instead, TCC experimentation is converging on a reduce set of Sorby’s material within the content of a required 1-credit hour student orientation course. This approach promises to avoid administrative difficulties of new course adoption. It avoids required placement testing. And it has the benefit of reaching 100% of the under prepared students, regardless of the engineering or technology program the student may eventually complete.
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