June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.516.1 - 22.516.23
Experiences of Non-Persisting Engineering UndergraduatesEngineering programs nationwide lose almost half of their undergraduate students during the course oftheir undergraduate careers. Increasing our understanding of the students who leave engineering (“non-persisters”) is crucial to determine ways to better support engineering undergraduates and increaseretention. This study utilizes academic transcripts, semi-structured interviews, and longitudinal surveyscollected from the Academic Pathways Study (APS) to understand persisting and non-persisting studentsfrom a Suburban Private University. Data from the APS allows for characterization of the coursework thestudents take, what they believe engineering is, and reasons why they choose to leave or stay in theirmajor. In particular, differences between experiences of persisters and non-persisters in their first twoyears of study are compared to examine factors that may strongly influence non-persisters to switch out ofengineering.Prior research on the same data set has found that non-persisters are less committed to finishing anundergraduate major at the onset of their first year and experience a sharp decrease in intrinsic,psychological motivation for studying engineering after their first year. The current work shows that non-persisters take significantly less engineering coursework than their peers during their first year (p<0.05),suggesting that students choose to switch even before being exposed to engineering classes. After thesecond year, by which all non-persisters have switched to a non-engineering major, non-persisters aremore likely to cite technical skills as an important engineering skill whereas persisters shift fromemphasizing technical skills to highlighting problem solving and professional skills such ascommunication and collaboration. These differences may be a consequence of the lack of engineeringclasses, particularly project-based coursework, that non-persisters take. Finally, both groups of studentsappear to undergo the same hardships of curriculum overload due to inflexible and overwhelming courserequirements for engineering majors. However, interview data suggests that non-persisters choose tochange majors due to differences in their pre-college engineering experiences and priorities for what theyhope to gain during their undergraduate years.
Tseng, T., & Chen, H. L., & P.E., S. S. (2011, June), Early Academic Experiences of Non-Persisting Engineering Undergraduates Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17797
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