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Engineering Pathways Study: Lessons Learned in Its Development and Implementation

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Impact of Community Engagement on Students

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.501.1 - 24.501.14



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Paper Authors


Chris Swan Tufts University Orcid 16x16

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Chris Swan is the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Curriculum Development in the School of Engineering and an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Tufts University. He has additional appointments in the Department of Education, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts. He has been an active member of the American Society for Engineering Education, having served at various officer posts for the Environmental Engineering Division (2003-7) and the Community Engagement Division (2011 – present). His current research interests in engineering education focus on project-based learning and service-based pedagogies. He also does research on the impact of temperature (heating and/or freezing) on engineering properties of soils and on the development of reuse strategies for waste materials.

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Kurt Paterson P.E. James Madison University Orcid 16x16

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Timothy Henry Hellickson Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach

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Engineering Pathways Study: Lessons Learned in Its Development and ImplementationAbstractThe Engineering Pathways Study focused on measuring how desired attributes of futureengineers are impacted by a student’s involvement in service or community engagement (CE)efforts and how these attributes develop over the time of a students’ undergraduate education.The three-year project consists of a sequential, but staggered, study of engineering students;primarily from four institutions. Cohorts were developed based on students’ level ofinvolvement in curricular and extracurricular service-based activities; i.e., ranked from none tohigh. The project has used various quantitative and qualitative instruments to explore theimpacts of CE on engineering students’ learning; specifically, traditionally technical attributes(e.g., ABET Criteria 3a-e) as well as a mix of non-technical attributes (e.g. global awareness,social context of problems, self-efficacy, identity, civic development, intercultural sensitivity,and psychosocial well-being). The two major components of the study consisted of semi-annualrounds of administering an on-line survey (for all participants) and telephone interviews(conducted with a sub-set of participants). An additional instrument to measure interculturalsensitivity was administered to the interview sub-set on an annual basis. Overall, the projecthad an initial, total participant number of over 250 (120 interviewed), but attrition lead to only200 continuing their participation throughout the three years.This paper focuses on the insights or ‘lessons learned’ during the study’s development andimplementation, with a focus on how to maintain participation rates. Specifically, insightsdiscussed in this paper include methods in 1) recruitment and retention of student participants, 2)compensation of participants, and 3) maintaining participant interests in each round of the study.Other insights discussed include maintaining consistency in the survey and interview instrumentswhile also allowing changes in the items used. The longitudinal nature of the project also forcedthe project team to address continuing participation of students who changed majors fromengineering or who had graduated and did not provide post-graduation contact information.Recommendations for future longitudinal studies are also provided.

Swan, C., & Paterson, K., & Hellickson, T. H. (2014, June), Engineering Pathways Study: Lessons Learned in Its Development and Implementation Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20392

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