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A Longitudinal And Cross Sectional Study Of Engineering Student Intellectual Development As Measured By The Perry Model

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.18.1 - 3.18.18



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Paper Authors

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Betsy Palmer

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Rose M. Marra

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Thomas Litzinger

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3530

A Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Study of Engineering Student Intellectual Development as Measured by the Perry Model

Rose M. Marra, Betsy Palmer, Thomas A Litzinger The Pennsylvania State University


Industry leaders tell us that today’s successful engineers need excellent communication, problem solving, and life-long learning skills in addition to the technical content engineering educators have traditionally focused on (Augustine, 1997; Barr & Tagg, 1995). In response, colleges are reforming their curricula to introduce more hands-on, active-learning techniques into many courses. Such experiences are intended to produce in our students the skills just described. While anecdotal evidence may exist to support the effectiveness of these types of changes, strong quantitative evidence is also needed. This study examines the effects of recent curricular changes in Penn State’s College of Engineering on first-year students’ intellectual development as measured by the Perry Model (Perry, 1970). These results are part of a larger study which is described in the Method section.

The Perry model suggests that studentsí cognitive processes develop over time from simple black/white thinking to a more complex evaluation of alternatives. Students’ cognitive levels are assessed by a structured interview which asks them to reflect on the ways they think about ambiguous intellectual problems. This paper reports on the results of the initial phase of longitudinal and cross-sectional study of intellectual development of engineering students. In the first year of a four-year data collection plan (1996-97), semi-structured interviews were conducted with a randomly selected cohort of 53 entering first-year students. While results from the larger study will provide us with both longitudinal and cross-sectional data on the issues described, this paper reports only on the first round of interviews with the freshman cohort of 53 students. Thus, this paper examines the following research questions.

• Where do first-year engineering students begin on a scale measuring intellectual development? • How do first-year students’ Perry ratings at our institution compare to freshman engineering student ratings at other institutions? • How do first-year studentsí comments about knowledge and learning vary based on student Perry ratings? • How do men and women engineering students score relative to one another on the Perry scheme? • What are the implications of the subjects’ Perry ratings for teaching?

Literature Review

This section provides the line of reasoning for the studyís research questions as well as for the tools chosen to address these questions. We begin with an overview of the trends in changes in engineering education and then examine the Perry Model of Intellectual Development as a means

Palmer, B., & Marra, R. M., & Litzinger, T. (1998, June), A Longitudinal And Cross Sectional Study Of Engineering Student Intellectual Development As Measured By The Perry Model Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--7264

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