June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.240.1 - 22.240.11
Assessing First-Year Programs: Outcomes, Methods, and FindingsThis paper presents a meta-analysis of approaches to assessing first-year engineering programs.We examine work published through a variety of venues, including the ASEE AnnualConference and Exposition, Frontiers in Education, the Journal of Engineering Education, andrelated journals in order to provide the engineering education community with a comprehensiveunderstanding of available, viable methods of assessing critical first-year outcomes.First-year programs reflect a wide array of approaches, from general engineering programs todiscipline-specific introductions to the major spanning one or two semesters; many of theseprograms have published descriptions of their approaches to assessment and the effects ofvarious intervention strategies on student retention or specialized outcomes. Yet much of thiswork remains localized; little research to date has examined assessment across multiple programsto identify large-scale trends, locate similarities and differences in targeted learning outcomes,analyze methods of assessment, and perhaps most importantly, match assessment methods tooutcomes to identify best practices. As engineering education focuses on continuous curricularenhancement to best address the needs of 21st-century engineers, however, the community has astrong need to develop and share robust methods of assessing a variety of outcomes at the first-year level. This paper addresses this need by providing a systematic review and analysis ofexisting approaches discussed in the literature over the past decade. Given the dominance ofoutcomes-based assessment, we focus specifically on assessment approaches developed since theimplementation of EC 2000.The analysis examines the types of outcomes first-year programs typically assess, the approachesto assessment are applied, the strengths and weaknesses of these assessment tools both asreported in the literature and as suggested by educational research on assessment. The analysisconcludes with a discussion of the findings in light of current trends in engineering educationand highlights sets of outcomes and assessment measures that hold the most promise foradaptability across programs and institutions. The findings thus reflect not a single approach toassessment for all first-year programs, but rather a framework for developing first-yearassessments that integrates the current needs and practices of the community with groundedresearch from the educational assessment field.
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