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Assessing First-Year Programs: Outcomes, Methods, and Findings

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

FPD XI: Assessing First-Year Programs, Experiences, and Communities

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.240.1 - 22.240.11



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Paper Authors


Marie C. Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an associate professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center. Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, and design education. She was awarded a CAREER grant from NSF to study expert teaching practices in capstone design courses nationwide, and is co-PI on several NSF grants to explore gender in engineering, design education, and interdisciplinary collaboration in engineering design.

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Kelly J. Cross Virginia Tech University

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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.

Paretti, M. C., & Cross, K. J. (2011, June), Assessing First-Year Programs: Outcomes, Methods, and Findings Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17521

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