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How Engineering Students Study: Alone, Together, or Start Alone, End Together

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Conference

2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015

ISBN

978-0-692-50180-1

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

New Engineering Educators Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count

17

Page Numbers

26.854.1 - 26.854.17

DOI

10.18260/p.24191

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/24191

Download Count

63

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Paper Authors

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Denise Wilson University of Washington

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Denise Wilson is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research interests in engineering education focus on the role of belonging, self-efficacy, and other non-cognitive aspects of the student experience on engagement, success, and persistence.

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Cheryl Allendoerfer University of Washington

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Dr. Allendoerfer is a Research Scientist in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington.

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Rebecca A Bates Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Rebecca A. Bates received the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Washington in 2004. She also received the M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1993. She is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Integrated Engineering program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, home of the Iron Range and Twin Cities Engineering programs.

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Tamara Floyd Smith Tuskegee University

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Dr. Tamara Floyd Smith is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at Tuskegee University.

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Melani I. Plett Seattle Pacific University

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Prof. Melani Plett is a Professor in Electrical Engineering at Seattle Pacific University. She has over seventeen years of experience in teaching a variety of engineering undergraduate students (freshman through senior) and has participated in several engineering education research projects, with a focus how faculty can best facilitate student learning.

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Nanette M Veilleux Simmons College

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Nanette Veilleux is a Professor and Director of the Computer Science and Informatics Program at Simmons College, Boston, MA. Her research interests include pedagogy in STEM disciplines, particularly with respect to women students and computational linguistics where she investigates the use of intonation in human speech.

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Abstract

How Engineering Students Study: Alone, Together, or Start Alone, End TogetherStudies have shown that studying in groups facilitates learning for many students, and that manystudents who drop out of engineering or computer science majors report feelings of isolation or alack of belonging as a reason for their departure. One might expect then, when speaking withthose who have persisted in an engineering or computer science major, that many would reportstudying in groups or seeking to study in groups. To understand whether or not this is true, thisstudy interviewed over 30 students from five different institutions in a variety of engineering andcomputer science majors, to understand how and why students study the way they do. Knowingstudy patterns and preferences can assist practitioners in understanding how best to support theformation of groups and the development of teams for maximum educational benefit.The institutions involved in this research include three types of Carnegie 2010 classifications(Bac-Diverse, Master’s L, and RU-VH), geographical locations in the northwest, northeast,midwest, and southeast, both public and private institutions, and enrollments varying from 3,500to 29,000 students (total undergraduates among all majors). Majors represented in the studyinclude pre-engineering, bioengineering, chemical, computer, electrical, industrial, andmechanical engineering, and computer science, Year in school ranges from sophomore to seniorin these undergraduate engineering and computer science programs.Although this interview pool does not provide a large sample size, and thus results must beinterpreted with caution, we found that a majority of students begin studying alone and seek helponly later when they run into trouble with their coursework. Despite the fact that this “start alone,end together” model for studying predominates among interviewees at all five institutions, thereasons for doing so vary. For example, students at the small women’s college in this studyreport easy accessibility to faculty as a reason to refrain from studying in groups, while studentsat the large research institution report a need to focus properly, learn fully, and make the mostefficient use of limited time as the prevalent reason for beginning their study alone.The results of our student interviews suggest the need for a larger study that investigates howprevalent the ‘start alone, end together’ mode of studying is among a large, representative sampleof engineering and computer science students. Results from such a study would be helpful tounderstand what kinds of study groups and teams faculty should support in their classes andwhen they should encourage teams over solitary work. Furthermore, a strong preference to ‘startalone, end together’ also suggests that true teamwork in capstone design and other large projectsmay be only rarely taking place, and external structure may be essential to negotiating team-based decisions (as opposed to the sum of individual decisions) early in project-based learning.

Wilson, D., & Allendoerfer, C., & Bates, R. A., & Smith, T. F., & Plett, M. I., & Veilleux, N. M. (2015, June), How Engineering Students Study: Alone, Together, or Start Alone, End Together Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24191

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: © 2015 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