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Examining the Effectiveness of Scholars Assisting Scholars Program Among Undergraduate Engineering Students

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division: Student Success

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First-Year Programs

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Lydia Yang Yang Kansas State University

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Yang Lydia Yang is Assistant Professor of Quantitative Research Methodology at College of Education, Kansas State University. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction from Florida International University. Her research interest include quantitative research design, recruitment and retention of women in STEM fields, motivation and self-regulated learning.

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Bette Grauer P.E. Kansas State University

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Assistant Dean for Retention, Diversity, and Inclusion, Kansas State University

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Retaining engineering students is a critical issue in engineering education, especially in the first two years of college when the attrition rate in engineering has been stubbornly high. Peer tutoring and supplemental instruction are widely used techniques in order to help freshmen and juniors succeed in challenging courses in universities. Peer tutoring has shown to improve academic outcomes such as achieving higher GPAs, higher retention rates, and improving student connectedness. In this study, we are focusing on the effectiveness of a peer tutoring and supplemental instruction program implemented in a college of engineering at a large land grant research institution.

In order to increase the retention rates of freshmen and sophomores, the College of Engineering developed and implemented a free tutoring program called Scholars Assisting Scholars, SAS. SAS supports student success and learning for students in first and second year core science, math and computer science courses. The SAS program employs students who have successfully completed these courses. SAS tutors have substantial responsibilities as tutors and are encouraged to take ownership of their position as a tutor. They schedule regular tutoring times each week in a dedicated tutoring space, the Collaborative Learning Lab. This room is a large, bright and comfortable work space. The tutors are easily located with an online electronic schedule service and signs posted at their tables identifying their content area. SAS tutors are required to attend a specific lecture section of a course and serve as a tutoring resource to students enrolled in that section. The tutors work with faculty to provide assistance consistent with course instruction and lead review sessions before each exam.

Tutors are trained in effective teaching techniques in problem solving and time management, effective mentoring skills, barriers and adversity encountered by first year students, and developing learning and study community among the students attending tutoring sessions. The goals of the program are to help engineering students successfully complete engineering first and second year coursework.

The objective of this research is to examine whether and to what extent attending the peer tutoring program influences the academic achievement and retention among first and second year engineering students. Learning about the usefulness of the SAS peer tutoring program can inform the researchers how to improve the SAS program and make it an effective approach in helping engineering students succeed academically.

In this quasi-experimental quantitative study, we focused specifically on students enrolled in the Calculus 1 course for three reasons: a) Calculus 1 is a required course for all engineering students, and b) Calculus 1 course is a predictor of whether or not a student will be retained in engineering. Participants consisted of 581 students who enrolled in Calculus 1 in Fall 2016. Data were collected using two methods. First, all participants’ demographic information and academic performance records were retrieved from the College of Engineering’s main student database. Second, the visit data of students who visited the SAS program for Calculus 1 were recorded electronically by Academic Success Center. Two datasets were cross-referenced. Two identifier variables were created in the main dataset with one indicating whether a student utilized the SAS program for Calculus 1 course (1 = Yes, 0 = No) and the other indicating the frequency one used the SAS program (those who did not use the program were coded as missing data). Two outcome variables were examined, including student retention status defined by whether completing Calculus 1 with a C or better (1 = completion, 0 = not completed) and student cumulative GPAs after completion of the Calculus 1 course.

We used Pearson’s Chi-square test to compare the likelihood of completion of the Calculus 1 course with a C or better between those who used SAS program and those who did not. The results indicated that group membership has a statistically significant association with whether a participant earned a C or better in Calculus 1 or not. Furthermore, the SAS program users had higher average cumulative GPAs comparing to those who did not use it. This suggests that using SAS tutoring program had significant association with students’ academic outcomes.

Yang, L. Y., & Grauer, B. (2018, June), Examining the Effectiveness of Scholars Assisting Scholars Program Among Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30468

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