June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Educational Research and Methods
13.137.1 - 13.137.23
Amid concerns that U.S. educational institutions are not attracting and graduating sufficient numbers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle the technological challenges of the 21st century, the National Science Foundation granted funding in 2003 to the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), dedicated to advancing the scholarship of engineering learning and teaching.
The largest element of the CAEE is the Academic Pathways Study (APS), an in-depth, mixed methods exploration of the undergraduate student experience and the graduate’s transition into professional practice. The APS addresses the following research questions:
1. How do students' engineering skills and knowledge develop and/or change over time? 2. How does one's identity as an engineer evolve? 3. What elements of engineering education contribute to the students' skills/knowledge and identity? What elements contribute to students’ persistence in an engineering major and persistence in the engineering profession? 4. What skills do early career engineers need as they enter the workplace?
Given the scale of the APS investigation with multiple schools and student populations, the answers to these questions will allow us to identify educational practices that contribute to students persisting and thriving in engineering, and potential strategies for attracting more students to the study of engineering.
This paper describes the evolution and implementation of the Academic Pathways Study (APS), a five year, multi-institution study designed to address these questions and implications for academic practices. As such, this paper is a “welcome mat” or introduction for those interested in learning more about APS. Components of the paper address questions researchers designing new studies may have about the organizational and technical infrastructure that supported this project, or about the quantitative and qualitative research methods, tools, and protocols used. Other components of the paper address questions that researchers and engineering faculty and administrators might have regarding how to explore the findings and insights that are emerging from this extensive longitudinal and cross-sectional study of students’ pathways through engineering. Research findings to date are summarized in a companion paper entitled Findings from the Academic Pathways Study of Engineering Undergraduates, by Atman, et al4.
1. APS Background and Goals
The past two decades have witnessed an ongoing national dialog about the lack of gender, race and ethnic diversity among those studying and practicing engineering1 and the adequacy of students’ preparation for today’s engineering challenges2. Further complicating the discussions are worries that U.S. educational institutions are not attracting and retaining sufficient students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to keep up with the country's demands. In response, the National Science Foundation set out in 2002 to establish Higher
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