June 16, 2002
June 16, 2002
June 19, 2002
7.273.1 - 7.273.6
Main Menu Session 2793
Building Community through Clustered Courses
Ann Kenimer, Jim Morgan
Associate Professor, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department, Texas A&M University, College Station/Associate Professor, Civil Engineering Department, Texas A&M University, College Station
The Dwight Look College of Engineering typically enrolls 1400 to 1700 starting freshmen each year. The majority of these freshmen take their first-year math, science and engineering courses as a cluster. A cluster is a collection of approximately 100 students who have the same schedule for a group of three or four courses. These courses have some overlap in (or connection between) subject matter.
Each course uses a teaming concept, with engineering dividing the students into teams of four, and math and science using lab partners. Since team assignments are not necessarily consistent between courses, a student may work in teams with several students from within the cluster who are not part of their engineering team. Consequently, even though the freshman class as a whole is quite large, common course scheduling and the use of teams within individual courses promote the development of a small community atmosphere.
There is much evidence of this community effect: 1. student progress towards completing key freshman-level courses, 2. the development of friendships between students and formation superteam study groups, which include members from several individual course teams, 3. the choice of students to continue clustering into upper level courses (requiring they take initiative to establish a clustered course schedule), and, 4. improved student retention for several cohorts.
Moreover, since student attitudes about teaming and academic assistance are more positive with course clustering, students are generally more satisfied with their first year experience in the college.
This paper examines the impact of community building on student interaction and attitudes as related to cluster. In addition, it evaluates faculty perceptions and experiences with clustered courses.
History of Freshman Clustering at Texas A&M University
The Foundation Coalition was founded in 1993 with a mission in part to improve engineering curricula and learning environments in which engineering students are taught. At Texas A&M University, Foundation Coalition programs included clustering students during their freshman year.1-3 With clustering (Table 1), students take their mathematics, science, and engineering
Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education
Kenimer, A., & Morgan, J. (2002, June), Building Community Through Clustered Courses Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10186
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