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A Study Of Predictive Factors For Success In Electrical Engineering

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.107.1 - 6.107.7



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Deborah van Alphen

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Sharlene Katz

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

Session 2793

A Study of Predictive Factors for Success in Electrical Engineering

Deborah K. van Alphen, Sharlene Katz California State University, Northridge


Many electrical engineering programs require foundations classes that are a hindrance to students attempting to enter the field of engineering. If we could identify the factors that lead to student success, we would be better able to advise students, or perhaps re-shape the curriculum, in ways that would promote success and ease the path towards graduation.

In this paper we considered numerous candidate predictive factors for academic success in our foundations class, Electrical Engineering Fundamentals. We used the final course grade as the metric of academic success. The candidate factors that we found to be the most predictive are the students’ college-level grade point average (GPA), their grades in the pre-requisite courses, their scores on an assessment quiz covering pre-requisite course material, and math readiness as measured by the Math Placement Test taken by incoming freshmen. Other candidate factors that we considered are the amount of time that has elapsed since the pre-requisite courses were taken, students’ high-school GPA, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, and whether the students enrolled as freshmen or transfer students. Each candidate factor was compared to the success metric using both linear and rank correlation. Additionally, conditional mean values for the success metric were computed.

I. Introduction

Traditional electrical engineering programs include a lower division circuits course that serves as a foundation for the remainder of the electrical engineering curriculum. The foundations course is often frustrating to students and faculty, with students performing at a level below their own expectations and with faculty decrying the students’ apparent lack of preparation, effort, and/or ability. The mismatch between expectations and achievement is so severe that many universities, including our own, devote a considerable amount of time trying to improve student success in the basic circuits course.

In this paper we attempt to identify factors that contribute to students’ success or failure in electrical engineering. We analyzed data for students enrolled in the lower division circuits course offered at our university during four consecutive semesters. In Section II we provide a brief description of our program and the data that we collected. We then summarize and interpret the correlation results and the conditional means in Section III. Section IV takes a closer look at how we can utilize our results to improve student success. Finally, in Section V we consider a plan of action for program enhancement based on the results presented in the paper.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

van Alphen, D., & Katz, S. (2001, June), A Study Of Predictive Factors For Success In Electrical Engineering Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9815

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