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Faculty Perceptions on Undergraduate Engineering Education in First-Year Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics Courses

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

FPD 7: First-Year Engineering Courses, Part II: Perceptions and Paradigms

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.595.1 - 23.595.15



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Paper Authors


Janaki Isabella Perera Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Janaki Perera is a senior at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Engineering with a concentration in Materials Science.

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Brendan Thomas Quinlivan Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Mr. Brendan Quinlivan is an undergraduate student at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering majoring in General Engineering with a concentration in Biomechanics. Although Biomechanical Engineering is his main area of study, Brendan also has a vested interest in working to advance the field of engineering education.

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Yevgeniya V. Zastavker Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Yevgeniya V. Zastavker is an Associate Professor of Physics at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.
Her research interests lie at the intersection of project-based learning and gender studies with specific
emphasis on the curricula and pedagogies implemented in the first-year engineering programs.

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Faculty Perceptions on Undergraduate Engineering Education in First-Year Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics CoursesThe high rate of university science major dropouts is frequently attributed to the poor quality ofteaching in first-year undergraduate courses (Marra et al., 2012). Understanding the commonfeatures of courses, which frequently drive away undergraduate science and engineering majors,is essential for reform in STEM education (Wright et al., 2004). Examining the perceptions ofboth first-year undergraduates and their instructors may provide further insight into students’experiences. Students’ perceptions about these courses have been examined in previous work;therefore this study aims to investigate the perceptions of faculty members instructing first-yearundergraduates (Towers et al., 2011, and references therein).This investigation is part of a larger mixed methods study conducted at three undergraduateinstitutions. The study examines both student and faculty perceptions about various aspects ofintroductory (“gateway”) engineering courses. Mathematics, physics, and introductoryengineering courses are used as units of analysis in each of the three institutions. Data sourcesinclude classroom observations, student surveys, and interviews with both students and faculty.This particular study focuses on interviews with nine faculty members, lab instructors, andteaching assistants (2 women and 7 men) at one small technical university. The interviews centeron pedagogical techniques, interactions with students, as well as teaching challenges and highpoints. Analysis was performed using grounded theory. The interviews were coded with aninter-coder reliability rating of ninety-four percent. The codes and categories were further sorted,compared and contrasted; finally, analytic matrices were produced to help in identifyingemergent themes (Strauss and Corbin, 1998; Maxwell, 2005).Our analysis resulted in several emergent themes, which include faculty motivation towardsteaching, faculty affect towards students, and faculty perceptions of student motivation andabilities. We found a broad range of faculty motivations towards teaching, varying from apassion for inspiring students to a means of income. Negative affect towards students, especiallythose whom faculty perceived as “lacking in motivation,” also seemed to be pervasive among thefaculty interviewed. These findings are important as they shed light into one aspect ofundergraduates’ experience, that of faculty support in students’ academic development.Further investigations are necessary in this direction as the implications of these findings have aprofound effect on how we educate the next generation of our national workforce andparticularly STEM professionals. Understanding faculty perceptions not only in this institutionbut overall in the country, is a necessary step to affect STEM educational reform.References:Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Marra, R. M., Rodgers, K. A., Shen, D., & Bogue, B. (2012). Leaving Engineering: A Multi- Year Single Institution Study. Journal of Engineering Education.Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (2nd ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Towers, E., Simonovich, J. A., & Zastavker, Y. V. (2011). Students Perceptions of the Engineering Profession and Implications for Interest in the Field. Frontiers in Education.Wright, E. L., Sunal, D. W., & Day, J. B. (2004). Improving Undergraduate Science Teaching. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing.

Perera, J. I., & Quinlivan, B. T., & Zastavker, Y. V. (2013, June), Faculty Perceptions on Undergraduate Engineering Education in First-Year Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics Courses Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19609

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