Asee peer logo

Academic Pathways Study: Processes And Realities

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

SPECIAL SESSION: Describing the Engineering Student Learning Experience Based on CAEE Findings: Part 1

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.137.1 - 13.137.23



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Mia Clark Stanford University

author page

Lorraine Fleming Howard University

author page

Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

author page

Cynthia Atman University of Washington

author page

Ronald Miller Colorado School of Mines

author page

Ruth Streveler Purdue University

author page

Reed Stevens University of Washington

author page

Karl Smith University of Minnesota

Download Paper |

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


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

Clark, M., & Fleming, L., & Sheppard, S., & Atman, C., & Miller, R., & Streveler, R., & Stevens, R., & Smith, K. (2008, June), Academic Pathways Study: Processes And Realities Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3564

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015