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An Overview of First-Year Engineering Students’ Perceptions of Problem Solving in Engineering during a Major Exploration Course

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Conference

2021 First-Year Engineering Experience

Location

Virtual

Publication Date

August 9, 2021

Start Date

August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

Page Count

7

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/38369

Download Count

14

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Paper Authors

biography

Baker A. Martin Clemson University

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Baker Martin is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University and teaches in the General Engineering Program as part of the first-year engineering curriculum. His research interests include choice and decision making, especially relating to first-year engineering students’ major selection. He earned his B.S. from Virginia Tech and his M.S. from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, both in chemical engineering.

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Marisa K. Orr Clemson University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5944-5846

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Marisa K. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Engineering and Science Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity, diversity, and academic policy. Dr. Orr is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award for her research entitled, “Empowering Students to be Adaptive Decision-Makers.”

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Steven C Brandon Clemson University

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Senior Lecturer, General Engineering, Clemson University, 2007-present

PhD, Food Technology, Clemson Univ. 2005
MS, Mechanical Engineering, Clemson Univ. 1989
BS, Mechanical Engineering, Clemson Univ. 1983

Industry experience. Membrane Separations primarily in food processing applications: 1985-2007

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Elizabeth Anne Stephan Clemson University

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Dr. Elizabeth Stephan is the Director of Academics for the General Engineering Program at Clemson University. Since 2002, she has taught, developed, and now coordinates the first-year curriculum. She is the lead author of the "Thinking Like an Engineer" textbook, currently in its 5th edition. She holds a B.S. and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Akron.

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Abstract

This full paper will present the perceptions of engineering of first-year engineering (FYE) students before and after completing an optional major discovery course. Existing literature has documented the impact that common first-year engineering programs (FYEPs) and coursework can have on students, especially as part of their major selection process. Many programs help students decide whether engineering as a field is correct for them and some programs also help students decide which field of engineering most aligns with their interests. However, the amount of time dedicated to major selection in FYEPs varies – in some, it is a required component while others offer little or no coursework in this area.

Despite knowing of many benefits of FYEPs, less is known about the longitudinal benefits of the major discovery component. This study will use data from multiple cohorts of FYE students to determine the impacts of a major discovery course on the perceptions of engineering of FYE students. At the institution being studied, the major discovery course is an optional, half-semester, one credit, pass / fail course offered in the FYEP in addition to the program’s primary sequence of technical focused coursework. All FYE students are in a non-degree granting FYE major during their time in the program and matriculate into degree-granting engineering majors at the conclusion of the program.

At the beginning and end of each semester, all students enrolled in an FYE course are asked to complete a survey which includes items about their intended major and their confidence in that choice. Additionally, students who take the major discovery course complete an additional survey as part of their coursework.

The focus of this paper will be on first-year engineering students’ perceptions of engineering and how those perceptions change after completing a major discovery course. We will seek to answer the following research question: How do first-year engineering students perceive engineering before and after completing a major discovery course? Responses to the open-ended survey item that asks students, “What do engineers do for a living?” will serve as the basis for analysis. Subsequent work will investigate how students’ perceptions of their intended engineering majors change before and after completing the major discovery course.

Initial results highlight some of the common themes in the literature about why students enroll in engineering. The most common responses analyzed so far indicate that students perceive engineers as people who solve problems, use math and science, and design and create products and processes. We expect that our complete results will be of value to advisors and instructors of FYE students and serve as additional evidence in support of the existing benefits of major discovery courses.

Martin, B. A., & Orr, M. K., & Brandon, S. C., & Stephan, E. A. (2021, August), An Overview of First-Year Engineering Students’ Perceptions of Problem Solving in Engineering during a Major Exploration Course Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual . https://peer.asee.org/38369

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