June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.600.1 - 22.600.16
Engineering Persisters and Non-Persisters: Understanding Inflow and Outflow Trends between Middle School and CollegeThis study was conducted in an effort to reveal trends in student inflow and outflow with respectto engineering as a career interest. The data reported were collected as a component of thePersistence Research in Science and Engineering (PRiSE) project. The purpose of PRiSE was tosurvey college/university students about their interests and prior experiences in STEM and toidentify experiences that positively influence students in their choice to pursue STEM disciplinesin college. Data collection was achieved by implementing a survey to a nationally-representativesample of students enrolled in freshman-level English classes in the fall semester of 2007.College students were asked to report their primary career interest at four time points: middleschool, beginning of high school, end of high school, and college. From the 34 randomly selected colleges and universities in the US, 6,860 students participatedin the PRiSE survey. Students who reported an interest in engineering prior to college but not incollege were termed “non-persisters,” and their shift away from engineering was mapped in anengineering outflow Sankey diagram which includes information on the discipline that drewthem away. Similarly, student inflow into engineering at the beginning of college from alldisciplines was assessed.Engineering Outflow (Non-Persisters; n=573)There were 573 non-persisting students of whom 265 first reported an interest in engineering inmiddle school, 188 at the beginning of high school, and 120 at the end of high school. Themajority of these non-persisters lost interest in engineering careers during the high school years(between the beginning of high school and the beginning of college). More specifically, betweenthe beginning and end of high school, 42% of the non-persisters had switched interests andbetween the end of high school and beginning of college, an additional 33% had lost interest.Non-persisters became interested primarily in biology/medicine/health (22%) or other non-science (54%), a subgroup consisting of professions such as business, law, English/language arts,etc. Other science-related fields (computer science, physical science, other science) attracted theremaining students away from engineering.Engineering Inflow (n=751)There were 751 students (11% of the total PRiSE sample) who selected engineering as a careerchoice at the beginning of college. Only 37% of engineering inflow occurred by the beginningof high school while 81% of total inflow was reported by the end of high school, suggesting asignificant generation of student interest in engineering during the high school years.Further analysis of personal and STEM-related experiences reported in PRiSE will allowcomparison of engineering persisters and non-persisters. For example, career motivations (e.g.ability to help people, ability to invent new things), performance and confidence in science andmath, and exposure to specific high school classroom practices will be assessed. Therefore,information gleaned from this study has potential to improve not only an understanding ofappropriate timing of student recruitment into engineering, but also the factors that can promoteinterest in engineering as a career choice.
Cass, C. A., & Hazari, Z., & Sadler, P. M., & Sonnert, G. (2011, June), Engineering Persisters and Non-Persisters: Understanding Inflow and Outflow Trends between Middle School and College Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17881
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: © 2011 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