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Developing an Instrument to Assess the Effects of Pre-College Engineering Participation on the Experiences of First-Year Engineering Students

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Assessment

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Noah Salzman Boise State University

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Noah Salzman is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University, where he is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and IDoTeach, a pre-service STEM teacher preparation program. His work focuses on the transition from pre-college to university engineering programs, how exposure to engineering prior to matriculation affects the experiences of engineering students, and engineering in the K-12 classroom. He has worked as a high school science, mathematics, and engineering and technology teacher, as well as several years of electrical and mechanical engineering design experience as a practicing engineer. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College, his Master's of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Doctorate in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received Best Paper awards from the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and 2011 and from the IEEE Transactions on Education in 2011 and 2015. Dr. Ohland is Chair of the IEEE Curriculum and Pedagogy Committee and an ABET Program Evaluator for ASEE. He was the 2002–2006 President of Tau Beta Pi and is a Fellow of the ASEE, IEEE, and AAAS.

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Monica E. Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16

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Monica E. Cardella is the Director of the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering Education and is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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In this Complete Research paper, we describe the development of a survey instrument to measure the ways that students experience the transition from pre-college engineering activities to first-year engineering programs. As the number of opportunities to study and do engineering prior to matriculation in an undergraduate engineering program increases, first-year engineering students draw from a diverse range of pre-college engineering experiences that affect their transition to studying engineering at a university.

The instrument utilizes a theoretical framework developed via a phenomenographic interview process that identified five distinct ways students experience the transition from pre-college to university engineering. These range from foreclosure or a feeling of entrapment in engineering, to frustration, to tedium, to connection, to the ability to help others be successful in first-year engineering. Utilizing the interview data that informed the development of these categories, we identified statements associated with each of these ways of experiencing the transition from pre-college to university engineering and used these statements to develop an initial instrument consisting of 65 Likert-type questions on students’ experiences combined with detailed questions on both the types pre-college engineering experiences the students participated in and the content of these experiences. Validation of the initial instrument involved multiple rounds of feedback from experts in both pre-college and first-year engineering education, followed by an initial administration of the instrument to the first-year student population at two universities. Analysis of these results showed that overall the instrument had good reliability, however we identified 15 low functioning items for removal, reducing the total number of items to 50.

Upon completion of the development process, we administered the final instrument again to another population of first-year engineering students. Analysis of these results using Exploratory Factor Analysis yields components that align well with most elements of the aforementioned theoretical framework. However, we identified several additional independent factors related to ways that students experience disconnects or frustration when transitioning from pre-college to first-year engineering programs.

Pre-college engineering is growing, but students arrive in first-year engineering programs with varying levels of prior exposure to engineering. Understanding how pre-college experiences affect students’ transitions to engineering will provide valuable data for both the creators and instructors of pre-college and first-year engineering curricula, and facilitate better alignment between these interrelated spheres of engineering education.

Salzman, N., & Ohland, M. W., & Cardella, M. E. (2017, June), Developing an Instrument to Assess the Effects of Pre-College Engineering Participation on the Experiences of First-Year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015