June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Freshman students often start college with uncertainties about what major they want to study. This research presents student survey data that were collected in a project-based introductory engineering class at Colorado State University where students have enrolled in the College of Engineering but are undecided on a specific discipline to study. Surveys were administered to the students in this class to measure their experiences, attitudes, interests, and confidence to understand what factors influenced their decision in choosing a major and how that impacted retention in the College of Engineering. Engineering degrees require a strong foundation in math, chemistry, and physics, and these courses generally make up the majority of a first-year engineering student’s class schedule. However, some freshman students are uncertain about their abilities in math and science. Confidence can be an important factor in students who are not retained in engineering programs. In this introductory engineering class, a variety of activities and opportunities were provided to the students to gain a broad sense of what is involved in being an engineer and to learn about the specific engineering disciplines. Additional university or department resources were available to the engineering students to help with math, chemistry, physics, or engineering classes, which included tutoring or extra help sessions. This study investigates how the different activities and resources both inside and outside of the introductory engineering course impact how students decide their engineering discipline and their confidence in their decision. At the beginning of the semester, only 15% of the total class and 0% of female students were very confident in their decision of what engineering discipline they wanted to study. As the semester progressed, survey data indicated that student’s confidence levels in picking their engineering major did not change significantly even though the majority of students did choose a major by the end of the semester. Students tended to view math, physics, and chemistry as being more challenging by the end of the semester with no significant trends found in student confidence in these subjects. According to student surveys, at the beginning of the semester over 67% of the class identified math, chemistry, and physics as being challenging subjects versus over 82% by the end of the semester. This preliminary study can be used to further develop resources to help first-year undecided engineering students confidently choose their course of undergraduate study which could lead to an improvement in retention.
Evanoski-Cole, A., & Catton, K., & Vermeulen, B., & Bair, J. T., & Bradley, T. H. (2017, June), Confidence of Undecided First-Year Engineering Students in Choosing Their Major and Implications for Retention Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28067
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