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Complexity of Engineering Disciplines as an Engineering Gate Keeper? Exploring Literature Related to Students’ Selection of and Admittance into Engineering Majors

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Student Division Technical Session 4

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Tyler Milburn The Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Tyler Milburn is currently a Ph.D. student studying Engineering Education at Ohio State University where he serves as a Graduate Teaching Associate for the first-year engineering program. He is co-advised by Dr. Krista Kecskemety and Dr. Rachel Kajfez and his research interests include understanding how students apply to engineering majors and the experiences they face when they are rejected from an engineering major. Tyler earned his B.S. (2016) and M.S. (2018) degrees in Electrical Engineering from Ohio State University.

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Krista M. Kecskemety The Ohio State University

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Krista Kecskemety is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. Krista received her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering at The Ohio State University in 2006 and received her M.S. from Ohio State in 2007. In 2012, Krista completed her Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering at Ohio State. Her engineering education research interests include investigating first-year engineering student experiences, faculty experiences, and the connection between the two.

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Engineering disciplines have evolved over the last two centuries as technology has advanced, creating additional opportunities for engineers to solve new problems. These disciplines attract different numbers of students, adapting to solve new problems with new technology. While the definition of an engineering discipline is not explicit, engineering programs must decide what majors to offer their students to prepare them for modern and future engineering problems. Additionally, students must navigate the different disciplines as they use their knowledge and perceptions of disciplines to select their major of choice. The purpose of this literature review is to gain a more complete understanding of how students explore different engineering disciplines, what factors affect their choice of major, and how students apply to their selected major. Students have different knowledge of engineering disciplines before starting college, so engineering programs have introduced courses and communities aimed at helping expose students to each major offered at that university. Students also have different perceptions of engineering disciplines that affect their views on a major and if they consider studying it or not. A student’s knowledge and perception of engineering disciplines, as well as their values and goals, are used to inform their selection of a major. Students must also navigate different matriculation paths and major application processes used by universities. After being accepted into a major, students may still doubt if they want to study engineering or if their major aligns with their interests and future career plans. While research has been conducted on this process students face and what factors can affect the decision of their major, research is lacking on students who are not accepted into their major, disrupting students’ planned paths into engineering and jeopardizing their future as an engineer. Future research should address how universities can best support these students to continue increasing the number of engineers.

Milburn, T., & Kecskemety, K. M. (2021, July), Complexity of Engineering Disciplines as an Engineering Gate Keeper? Exploring Literature Related to Students’ Selection of and Admittance into Engineering Majors Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36823

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