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A Study Of Calculus I Students

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Beyond the Engineering Classroom

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.118.1 - 14.118.13



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Paper Authors


Cindy Veenstra Engineering education consultant

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Dr. Cindy P. Veenstra is principal consultant for Veenstra and Associates. Her research includes the development of system process improvement strategies for achieving a higher engineering college student retention. She earned her Ph.D. in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan with a research focus on modeling first-year engineering retention. Dr. Veenstra's research has been published in the Advances in Engineering Education, the Journal of Engineering Education and the Journal for Quality and Participation. She is a director of the College-Industry Partnerships Division of ASEE. She also serves on the ASQ Higher Education Advisory Council. Her professional affiliations include ASEE, ASHE, INFORMS, SME and she is a Fellow of ASQ. She may be reached at

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

A Study of Calculus I Students Abstract A great deal of retention research centers on students entering engineering college and placed in Calculus I. In a University of Michigan research study of first-year engineering retention, the special case of the academic success and retention of engineering students enrolled in Calculus I was considered. In this study, Calculus I engineering students were compared to students in other fields of study (Pre-Med, non-engineering STEM students, and Non-STEM students) who also enrolled in Calculus I as their first math course in college. technology, engineering and math majors.

From this study, the following research conclusions were made: 1. Calculus I grade compared to students in other fields. 2. A significant difference in the distributions of the first-year GPA (grade point average) existed among the four student sectors with the engineering students showing the distribution with the lowest first-year GPA. 3. There was no significant difference in the retention of students from the first year of college to the beginning of the second year. The retention for engineering students enrolled in Calculus I was 95.6%.

The significance of this research is the comparison of first-year student success performance of engineering students enrolled in Calculus I to students in three other fields of study. This research adds to the literature of similar comparisons of the college GPA, except that this study is specific to engineering students enrolled in Calculus I. While it is significant that Calculus I students in engineering have the same first-year retention rate as students in the other fields, the first-year academic performance was less for engineering students, suggesting that they are at a higher risk for academic probation and eventually dropping out of engineering college. A discussion including the comparison of the first-year STEM GPA distributions is included.


Engineering students enrolled in Calculus I as their first course tend to be most at risk for academic success in the first year. Students who AP tested into the second or third Calculus course tend to be less at risk for academic probation due to their more advanced preparation in math and science. Due to the perceived higher risk of engineering students enrolled in Calculus I, there is often more research interest in this group of students. In a single-institution study, this paper discusses the comparison of students enrolled in Calculus I in four student sectors: engineering students, non-engineering STEM students, pre-medicine students and non-STEM students. These four student sectors are compared with respect to the Calculus I grade performance, overall first-year grade performance (GPA) and the first-year retention of these students in the university.

The engineering student sector averaged a lower GPA compared to the other three sectors, consistent with the findings of the germinal Astin and Astin study1. Because academic probation is based on the GPA, there was concern about why the engineering students in this study showed

Veenstra, C. (2009, June), A Study Of Calculus I Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4551

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