June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.182.1 - 13.182.12
An Innovative Freshmen Engineering Course to Improve Retention
As part of a federally funded project to improve retention, the College of Engineering (COE) at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale (SIUC) has implemented a college-wide Introduction to Engineering course to replace the first-year introductory engineering courses offered by individual departments. Introduction to Engineering is an innovative course designed to reinforce the retention efforts of the COE by addressing several issues that hamper student success.
Introduction to Engineering adopts a holistic approach to keep students interested and excited about engineering. All engineering freshmen are exposed to different engineering disciplines through a combination of engaging and informative lectures, projects and seminars. The hands- on projects increase students’ self confidence and teach them skills that a traditional classroom setting cannot offer. The course also aims to dispel the fear of mathematics, the primary reason for poor retention rates in many engineering colleges.
Three faculty members, representing the Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical and Computer Engineering Departments, which collectively receive 90% of the freshmen class, coordinate the course with the help of six teaching assistants. A separate team is responsible for regular collection and analysis of student feedback. General trends affecting students’ academic performance are discussed at weekly meetings and applicable adjustments are made. All aspects of the course are supervised by the Associate Dean of the College.
The course was offered for the first time in Fall 2007. Although it is still too early to evaluate the success of the course after one semester, available assessment data, including students’ perceptions of the course and their academic performance strongly indicate that the course will improve retention and graduation rates in the COE.
Retention of engineering students is critical to ensuring the adequacy of engineers to meet the demands of the industry. Recent statistics indicate a concerning decrease in the graduation rates, accelerating the research into engineering persistence 1.
Several researchers have attempted to identify early indicators of engineering persistence 1-4. Daempfle 5 and Pascarella et al. 6 propose a variety of interdependent factors relating to the level of preparation of the incoming student, academic environment, and expectations about work and family. Many studies stress the importance of first-year college experience and students’ self-perception of math ability in persistence. Jackson et al. 7 concludes that the first- year GPA is the best predictor of attrition. According to Besterfield-Sacre, M., et al. 8, adoption of an active learning format has the strongest impact on students’ academic performance and their attitudes about engineering profession.9
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