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Exploring Curriculum Flexibility and Compliance through the Use of a Metric for Curricular Progression

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Persistence and Retention II: Curricular Issues

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.687.1 - 22.687.15



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Paper Authors


George D. Ricco Purdue University, West Lafayette

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George D. Ricco is a doctoral student in Purdue University's School of Engineering Education. He previously received an M.S. in Earth and Planetary Sciences studying geospatial imaging and an M.S. in Physics studying high-pressure, high-temperature FT-IR spectroscopy in heavy water, both from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He has a B.S.E. in Engineering Physics with a concentration in Electrical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

His academic interests include longitudinal analysis, visualization, semantics, team formation, gender issues, existential phenomenology, and Lagomorph physiology.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by over $11.4 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received the William Elgin Wickenden Award for the Best Paper in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and multiple conference Best Paper awards. Dr. Ohland is Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and an At-Large member the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002 – 2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Exploring the Flexibility of the Engineering Curriculum through the Use of the MIDFIELD Database The Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering LongitudinalDevelopment (MIDFIELD) contains academic records for students at 10 partner institutionscomprising over 10% of United States engineering students. Using department graduationrequirements for each ABET EAC-accredited MIDFIELD program and more than 128,000engineering students, we have constructed a set of checkpoints within the database to yieldinformation on student curriculum progression by semester to address the following concerns:first, the overall completeness of the average engineering student’s curriculum; second, how toestablish a metric for the degree of flexibility within engineering disciplines and engineering as awhole; third, difference between student groups based on gender, matriculation status, major, andothers factors; and fourth, the issues and decisions involved in creating a binary tree progressiondiagram from raw student data provided by multiple institutions. These findings provideinformation to further the conversation on assessing engineering progression and success. The preliminary results from analyses of semester completion binary diagrams havegenerated further questions that are addressed in this paper. Although many students have notcompleted all of their first and second year courses at their institutions due to transfer and APcredits, it was surprising that significant numbers of students have incomplete sets of fourth,fifth, sixth, and seventh semester courses. Also, we hope to glean insight into which courses areroutinely skipped and profiles of the students who skip them on the path toward completing adegree. The expected analyses to be performed on “incomplete” student curriculum sets willinclude: in-depth studies of individual students to generate quantitative and qualitative argumentsfor curriculum incompleteness; decision tree analysis; logistic or probabilistic modelconstruction; basic, agent, or rule-based modeling to construct a null hypothesis; andcomparisons to other assessment metrics. As a whole, this work both explores a new approach tomodeling curricular pathways and provides new evidence regarding the flexibility of engineeringcurricula. 

Ricco, G. D., & Ohland, M. W. (2011, June), Exploring Curriculum Flexibility and Compliance through the Use of a Metric for Curricular Progression Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17968

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