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A Peer Led Team Learning Program For Freshmen Engineering Students: Impact On Retention

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

The Critical First Year in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.87.1 - 12.87.12



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Paper Authors


Pilar Pazos Northwestern University

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PILAR PAZOS is Research Associate at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University. She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Texas Tech University. She is involved in evaluation of undergraduate programs, specifically the GSW Program.

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Denise Drane Northwestern University

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DENISE DRANE is Assistant director at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University. She holds a Ph.D. in Speech and Language Pathology from Northwestern University. In addition to overseeing various research projects at the Searle Center, her involvement specifically includes designing the evaluation strategy for GSW.

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Gregory Light Northwestern University

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GREGORY LIGHT is the Director of the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence and an associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. He holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of London, UK, and focuses his research on the theory and practice of learning and teaching in higher education.

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Annette Munkeby Northwestern University

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ANNETTE MUNKEBY was a Graduate Research Assistant and program coordinator of the Engineering Workshops at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University. She is currently working towards her Doctorate in Music (DMA) at Northwestern University.

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

A Peer-Led Team Learning Program for Freshmen Engineering Students: Impact on Retention Abstract

This paper evaluates an innovative instructional approach based on peer-led team learning available to freshman students in the Engineering School at an R1 university in the Midwest. The paper builds on results of a previous study which found a positive impact of the program on grades, an effect that was particularly significant for women. In an attempt to go one step further in evaluating the program’s impact on academic success, we assessed the impact on student retention in a four course engineering sequence. The Workshop Program itself consists of small, diverse groups of students meeting weekly to tackle conceptually-based, challenging problems related to their classes. The program aims to promote conceptual learning and high academic achievement using a collaborative environment and is optional and complementary to the lecture classes. Retention was evaluated based on completion of a 4-course required sequence that is a core component of the engineering curriculum. Logistic regression analysis was conducted using incoming math SAT to control for pre-existing differences in students academic ability. Results indicate that students in the workshop have a significantly higher probability of completing the four-course sequence. Findings indicate that a workshop program using undergraduate leaders is an appropriate model for increasing students’ academic success in freshmen undergraduate engineering courses.


Increasing student retention among under-represented groups of students has become an important goal for higher education in the US. Demographic changes in academic institutions have called for new approaches to reduce attrition. Many institutions are making efforts to retain students, using strategies that focus on students’ first-year experience in college. While there has been substantial encouragement for the introduction of instructional innovation in undergraduate engineering1, there has been less interest in the development of innovative study programs devoted to increase performance and retention in Engineering.

This paper reports on the impact of the Engineering Workshop Program (EWP), a problem based, peer-led and collaborative group study program offered to all first year engineering students taking the Engineering Analysis (EA) sequence in the School of Engineering at Northwestern University. A previous study on the EWP program from 2001 to 20032 found a positive impact of the program on the academic performance of women. In this initial study, female workshop participants were statistically significantly more likely to be awarded a grade of B+ or better in 6 of 9 quarters than their female counterparts who did not participate in the program. In contrast, male participants had statistically significantly higher odds of obtaining a grade of B+ or better than male non-participants in only 2 of 9 quarters. While grades are an important indicator to evaluate student success, the rate of students completing academic degrees within the disciplines might be considered the critical success measure. Therefore, in this new study we conducted an analysis to determine whether the workshop program also had a positive impact on retention, and if it did, to determine whether the impact was again restricted to women, or extended to all participating students.

Pazos, P., & Drane, D., & Light, G., & Munkeby, A. (2007, June), A Peer Led Team Learning Program For Freshmen Engineering Students: Impact On Retention Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1926

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