June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.595.1 - 10.595.20
Evaluation of a Living-Learning Community For Freshmen Engineering Students Jennifer Light, Jennifer Beller, Greg Crouch, Denny C. Davis Washington State University
Abstract The idea of learning communities is not new or novel, however, its role in retaining, engaging, and intellectual development for engineering students has yet to be fully explored. There are numerous learning community studies that quantitatively measure grades and retention, and more recently studies that include engagement as measured through individual and national survey instruments. However, the vast majority of these studies are directed at general freshmen populations and not at engineering students specifically. Additionally, drawing direct causality from the learning community to the outcomes is still problematic. Controlling all the other variables that can affect grades, retention, and engagement from an experimental standpoint in an academic setting is difficult at best; consequently, a more effective methodology for evaluating a learning community program may be examining several pieces of evidence that “point” in a particular direction. This evaluative study considers a body of evidence collectively - similar to vector math – by adding the magnitude and direction of each piece of evidence to determine a relative measure of success for the program with respect to the program goals.
Background To understand this evaluation process, it is necessary to first understand the type of learning community that was developed and why this method may be particularly useful for engineering students. Second, a review of evaluation methodology for other learning communities sheds light on different ways of conducting a program evaluation. Finally a discussion of the measures and expected outcomes for this evaluation is provided.
Type of learning community and justification Learning communities can take many forms. Most concisely Shapiro and Levine1 identify four major types of learning communities: 1) paired or clustered courses; 2) cohorts in large courses or first-year interest groups; 3) team-taught courses; and 4) residential learning communities. Most learning communities fall within these categories or are combinations of these primary types. The learning community for this evaluation is a combination of three of these general types: clustered courses, first-year interest group, and residential. This learning community model was designed to mitigate high attrition rates and inadequate student preparedness and increase engagement in college activities.
With only one half of a percent of the average postsecondary student body enrolling in engineering,2 and only half of those students remaining in engineering,3 many professional associations and governmental agencies are concerned about the state of engineering education. Factors causing students to switch from engineering4, 5 include: institutional factors (i.e., the college “chilly” climate versus a more nurturing high school experience and lack of personal contact with faculty), differing high school and college faculty expectations as well as student
Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education
Light, J. (2005, June), Evaluation Of A Living Learning Community For Engineering Freshmen Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14170
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