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Academic Support For Under Prepared First Year Engineering Students – Does It Pay Off?

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Academic Standards & Issues/Concerns & Retention

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.120.1 - 10.120.13



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Tobia Steyn

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Academic support for under-prepared first year engineering students – does it pay off?

Tobia Steyn

School of Engineering, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract First year engineering students enrolled for an extended study program in the School of Engineering at the University of Pretoria have passed the University's admission tests assessing their ability to succeed at engineering studies. However, some of these students are academically still at risk because of shortcomings in their educational background. Diversity in these students' level of understanding and comprehension require careful consideration in planning and designing the curriculum of the extended study program so that the students can comply with the exit level outcomes for engineering graduates set by the Engineering Council of South Africa. Faculty is faced with the challenge to redress and enhance the under-prepared students' understanding of the fundamentals underpinning a study in calculus, to develop their personal, academic and communication skills and to introduce them to basic skills in information technology. To meet this challenge and address these aspects, a developmental course, Professional Orientation, is presented during the first year of study. The main pedagogical approach in the Professional Orientation course is to develop the academic potential of the under prepared students. Therefore, the focus in this course is not only on the learning content but also on the learning process. In 2000 the current structure and content followed in the Professional Orientation course were introduced. Assessment of the real effect of academic support on freshmen level (as in the Professional Orientation course), requires following up on students until completion of their studies. Preliminary results of the freshmen engineering students who enrolled in 2000 indicate that the academic performance of the at- risk students on the extended study program, who took the Professional Orientation course, compares favorably with that of the students on the standard study program. This paper overviews the curriculum design and instructional strategy followed in the Professional Orientation course in the School of Engineering. The paper reports on a longitudinal study of academic performance of first entrant engineering students who enrolled at the University of Pretoria in 2000 and compares performance of the under-prepared students with that of other first year engineering students.

Five Year Study Program The standard university engineering program in South Africa requires four years of full time study as regulated by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). In 1994 the Five Year Study Program (5YSP)[1] was introduced in the School of Engineering at the University of Pretoria (UP). This program is structured in such a way that the academic courses of the first two

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Steyn, T. (2005, June), Academic Support For Under Prepared First Year Engineering Students – Does It Pay Off? Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14472

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