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An Innovative Method To Realistically Track Engineering Student Retention And Academic Progress

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Conference

2007 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

FPD6 -- Early Intervention & Retention Programs

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count

17

Page Numbers

12.215.1 - 12.215.17

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/2192

Download Count

26

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Paper Authors

biography

Pat Pyke

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Patricia A. Pyke is the Director of Education Research for the College of Engineering at Boise State University. She oversees projects in freshman programs, math support, mentoring, outreach, and women’s programs. She earned a B.S.E. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley.

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John Gardner

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John F. Gardner is Chair of the Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Department at Boise State University. He is also Director of the Hewlett Foundation funded Engineering Schools of the West Initiative at Boise State. His current research interests, in addition to engineering education, include dynamic systems and sustainable energy systems.

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Marcia Belcheir

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Marcia J. Belcheir is the Associate Director of the Office of Institutional Analysis, Assessment and Reporting at Boise State University. She earned a Ph.D. in Educational Measurement and Evaluation from the University of Florida. Her research interests focus on college student retention with a particular emphasis on classroom experiences and their relationship to retention.

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Janet M. Hampikian is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Boise State University and a Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department. Janet received her Ph.D. in Materials Science, her M.S. in Metallurgy and her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut. Her educational research interests include freshmen engineering programs, math success, and recruitment and retention issues in engineering.

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Amy Moll

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Amy J. Moll is the Chair of the Boise State University Materials Science and Engineering Department. She has experience in R&D and manufacturing of microelectronic materials and packaging and continues that research today. Dr. Moll is also involved in development of through wafer interconnects in Si and projects developing Ceramic meso scale systems (C-MEMs).

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Cheryl Schrader

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Cheryl B. Schrader is Dean of the College of Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boise State University. Dean Schrader has an extensive record of publications and sponsored research in the systems, control and engineering education fields. She received the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Mentoring from the White House for an enduring, strong, and personal commitment to underrepresented engineering students and faculty.

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

An Innovative Method to Realistically Track Engineering Student Retention and Academic Progress

Abstract

Accurate data about student persistence (retention) and academic progress, particularly for first- year and lower division students, is essential to understanding and addressing factors affecting student success in engineering. Unfortunately, nationally standardized methods of measuring freshman persistence and graduation rates provide an incomplete, and in some cases inaccurate, picture of engineering student retention issues. Standard assessment methodology is based on a simplistic model of higher education – the expectation that freshman enter a university, choose a major, attend full time, and emerge four to six years later from that same university with a degree. All other students – those who transfer into or out of a university, those who work off campus and attend college part-time, those who take a semester off for personal, military or financial reasons – are not included in the standard model or the reported statistics.

In today’s higher education environment where nearly 60% of students attend more than one institution1, this simplistic model is becoming outmoded. And in our metropolitan university that provides educational access to a wide range of students – where many of our engineering students arrive on campus needing preparatory coursework in math, where almost all students work off campus, and where at least 40% attend college part time – the standard model becomes ineffectual.

To better understand factors affecting persistence and success in our student population at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho, our team developed a model that measures retention and academic progress of all engineering students. Additionally, our team focused special emphasis on freshman level students. Unlike the rigidly linear model described above, our model recognizes multiple entry and exit points and differing rates of progress along the engineering education route. Over three academic years, our team developed and refined an algorithm to query the Boise State University PeopleSoft database and ask meaningful questions about our students and their progress. In our algorithm: • Students are classified (pre-freshman through senior) based on their level of completion of the curriculum in each engineering department, rather than based on university credits. • Retention and academic progress of all engineering students, regardless of transfer status or part-time enrollment, is considered when tracking student graduation and progress. • Progress through the curriculum can be analyzed through the lenses of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, level of math preparedness, and other parameters.

In this paper we will explain how this model and algorithm have provided greater clarity on retention issues and trends affecting pre-freshman and freshman level engineering students at Boise State University. The data prompted our engineering college to respond in several ways, such as creating a new introductory engineering class for pre-freshman level students, enhancing emphasis on advising, and supporting math education through a variety of programs. We will also explain how the sorting algorithm is a method easily adaptable and portable to database systems at other universities.

Pyke, P., & Gardner, J., & Belcheir, M., & Callahan, J., & Moll, A., & Schrader, C. (2007, June), An Innovative Method To Realistically Track Engineering Student Retention And Academic Progress Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2192

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