June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.185.1 - 14.185.29
Evaluation of a New Engineering Residential College Initiative Abstract
With support from the National Science Foundation, the College of Engineering (COE) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) has implemented an Engineering Residential College (ERC), which consists of a series of academic and non-academic programs targeting first- and second-year retention rates. The academic programs include engineering student designated (ESD) sections of core curriculum courses and revisions to the math curriculum. The non-academic programs include requiring first- and second-year engineering students to live in Engineering Student Designated (ESD) residence halls and providing Peer Mentor and Peer Tutor Programs. The project focuses on freshman and sophomore students because the retention rate in the COE historically has been lowest during the first two years (i.e., 64% and 70%, respectively for data from 1997 to 2004).
Components of the ERC were evaluated using a mixed-methods approach including forced-choice, Likert-type, and open-ended survey items and focus groups. Overall, the freshman student retention increased after the first year of implementation of the ERC by 7% over historical retention rates. This study found quantitative and qualitative evidence for the effectiveness of the ESD residence halls, Peer Mentor Program, Peer Tutor Program, and the ESD residence hall courses. However, evidence suggests that the revisions to the math curriculum did not contribute to improved student retention.
Research on engineering students’ persistence and success has received a great deal of attention in the literature. According to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE)1, “Only 40-60 percent of entering engineering students persist to an engineering degree, and women and minorities are at the low end of that range. These retention rates represent an unacceptable systemic failure to support student learning in the field.” (p. 40).
Noteworthy is that research has shown that predictors of retention change throughout the first two years of an engineering program and predictors of graduation vary across universities.2 Tinto’s3 Student Integration Theory posits that students enter university with varied background characteristics and goal commitments which in turn influences their integration into the institution’s environment and thus their performance in college. “Given individual characteristics, prior experiences, and commitments, … it is the individual’s integration into the academic and social systems of the college that most directly relates to his continuance in that college” (p. 96).
With the support of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, the College of Engineering (COE) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has implemented an Engineering Residential College (ERC), which consists of a series of academic and non-academic programs to address aspects of student integration with the goal of improving first- and second-year retention rates (see Figure 1). The academic programs include offering engineering student designated (ESD) sections of core curriculum courses in the residence halls and providing revisions to the math
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