June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
This complete evidence-based practice paper focuses on a first-year engineering program (FYrE@ECST) that integrates evidence-based interventions. In the United States, less than 40% of incoming engineering freshman will actually complete an engineering degree. At Cal State LA, where more than 65% are from underrepresented groups and the vast majority is first-generation college students, the retention and graduation rates are lower than the national average. For many years, faculty and staff at the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology (ECST), Cal State LA, have implemented a number of evidence-based practices in the summer and first-year to help students transition into college and succeed in their engineering program. However, integration and systemization of these interventions have proven to be challenging. The summer bridge program (STEP) was launched in 2008, and comprises a 7-week math boot camp. It has been successful in enabling students to start their Fall term in a higher level math class, but was not enough of an intervention to guarantee future success in the engineering programs. The FYrE program, funded through a grant from the Helmsley Foundation, was implemented in the Fall 2015 to engage the students in the Cal State LA community from the outset, through a comprehensive first-year experience, which integrated a new first-year engineering and technology project-based course; physics and math supplemental instruction workshops led by peer-mentors; an inquiry-based math and physics workshop called Mathemagics; and a professional learning community (PLC) for faculty and staff involved in first-year programs in the college and across the university. Integration was further bolstered by cohorting student participants and through the development and use of a new advising tool known as the Golden Eagle Flight Plan (GEFP), which allows each student and his/her advisor(s) to keep track of the student’s academic progress, career development and community engagement. The 32 FYrE students (treatment group) were compared to a concurrent, matched Control Group (CG-2) of 33 students from the same entering class who participated in the summer bridge program but none of the other FYrE interventions; and a historical Control Group (CG-3) with 33 students from the previous year who participated in the previous version of the summer bridge program. Students from all 3 groups started in Calculus I during their first Fall term, after participating in STEP. We compared academic outcomes (i.e. STEM grades and GPA) and progress towards major (number of math and physics courses completed) for treatment and control groups. Self-efficacy surveys, focus groups and interviews with students, faculty and staff were conducted to assess the various components of the program by exploring its critical aspects through the lenses of all parties involved. Initial results of assessment show very positive signs of improvement in terms of grades and progress-to-degree. In terms of progress-to-degree, 72% of the FYrE cohort completed 3 quarters of math in their first year. By comparison, 30% of CG2 and 27% of CG-3 students completed 3 quarters of math during their first year. For physics, about 60% of the FYrE cohort completed 2 quarters of physics, while fewer than 5% of CG2 and just over 15% of CG3 students completed 2 quarters of physics during their first year. In summary, the treatment group made more progress toward their major and achieved higher grades in math than students in the two comparison groups, putting them in a better position to complete their degrees.
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