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An Integrated Modeling Approach to a Summer Bridge Course

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

FPD VIII: Crossing Bridges and Easing Transitions into the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.170.1 - 25.170.15

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Paper Authors


Helen M. Doerr Syracuse University

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Professor of mathematics and mathematics education

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Jonas Bergman Arleback Syracuse University

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AnnMarie H. O'Neil Syracuse University

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An Integrated Modeling Approach to a Summer Bridge CourseCurrent data on the participation of women and minorities in the STEM disciplines continues toshow that women and minorities are underrepresented in nearly all fields of engineering at theundergraduate level.1 Two decades of research on the experiences of undergraduate women andunderrepresented minorities in their engineering programs has pointed to a number of factors thatcontribute to the difficulties in recruiting and retaining talented students.2, 3, 4, 5 No single factoror simple explanation accounts for the continued underrepresentation of women and minorities inengineering. Rather, this underrepresentation results from the structure of the educationalexperience and a complex set of interacting factors within that system.A number of studies point to two key factors that are particularly important to retaining students:intellectual engagement with the discipline and social support leading to connections with peers,faculty and the engineering profession.6, 7 These findings have led a number of institutions todesign summer programs that engage students with academic content and build connections tothe social setting of the university. Research on the design and efficacy of such programs issparse, and many such programs are focused on improving students’ first mathematics courseplacement.8, 9 In this paper, we describe findings from our research on the effectiveness of acourse (offered as part of a summer bridge program) that was designed to improve students’success rate in their first semester mathematics course. Unlike other summer mathematicscourse offerings, we did not seek primarily to remediate the weaknesses of students’mathematical preparation that have accumulated over their K-12 schooling. Rather, we wantedto engage students in challenging mathematics through hands-on modeling projects, designedaround collaborative group learning. The course was organized was a deep understanding ofaverage rate of change (the central mathematical concept later developed in both pre-calculusand calculus)This six-week course took place over the past two years during a six-week residential programthat provides pre-freshmen with an opportunity to become familiar with the academic, social,and cultural life at the university. Over the last five years, the average enrollment in the programhas been 28% women and 77% underrepresented minorities. We implemented tasks that weredesigned to help students understand and apply the concept of average rate of change byengaging them in creating and interpreting models of physical phenomena that change. Thesetasks included (1) working with motion detectors to analyze linear and quadratic motion andrelated rates of change; (2) working with computer simulations to interpret velocity and positiongraphs; (3) using light sensors to model the intensity of light with respect to the distance from thelight source and to analyze the rate at which the intensity changes at varying distances from thelight source; and (4) building a simple circuit to charge a capacitor and then creating amathematical model that can be used to analyze the change in voltage across the capacitor as itdischarges. In addition, we developed a Rate of Change Concept Inventory to measure students’understanding of the average rate of change. The results of this study (n=50 students) showed a23% improvement (ps college of engineering. Journal of Engineering Education, 95(1), 49-61.[4] May, G. S. & Chubin, D. E. (2003). A retrospective on undergraduate engineering success for underrepresented minority students. Journal of Engineering Education, 92(1), 27-39.[5] Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.[6] Micomonaco, J., & Sticklen, J. (2010). Toward a better understanding of academic and social integration: A qualitative study of factors related to persistence in engineering. In American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.[7] Smith, K. A., Sheppard, S. D., Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2005). Pedagogies of engagement: Classroom-based practices. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 87- 100.[8] Papadopoulous, C., & Reisel, J. (2008). Do students in summer bridge programs successfully improve math placement and persist? A meta-analysis. In American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.[9] Varde, K. (2004). Effects of pre-freshman program for minority students in engineering. In American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.

Doerr, H. M., & Arleback, J. B., & O'Neil, A. H. (2012, June), An Integrated Modeling Approach to a Summer Bridge Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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