Asee peer logo

How We Measure Success Makes A Difference: Eight Semester Persistence And Graduation Rates For Female And Male Engineering Students

Download Paper |

Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Issues of Persistence in Engineering

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count

9

Page Numbers

14.675.1 - 14.675.9

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/4937

Download Count

82

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

Matthew Ohland Purdue University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-4052-1452

visit author page

Matthew W. Ohland is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and is the Past President of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996. Previously, he served as Assistant Director of the NSF-sponsored SUCCEED Engineering Education Coalition. He studies longitudinal student records in engineering education, team-member effectiveness, and the implementation of high-engagement teaching methods.

visit author page

biography

Michelle Camacho University of San Diego

visit author page

Michelle Madsen Camacho is Associate Professor of the Sociology Department and Affiliated Faculty in both the Ethnic Studies Program and the Gender Studies Program at the University of San Diego. She is fluent in both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and uses theories from interdisciplinary sources including cultural studies, critical race, gender and feminist theories. Her research examines questions of culture, power and inequality through both macro and micro lenses. She has presented and published her research on several projects including: the paradox of “modernization” via state-led development projects in Mexico, narratives of pedagogy and the application of community service learning, and inequalities in education, particularly persistence of women and people of color in engineering education.

visit author page

biography

Richard Layton Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

visit author page

Richard A. Layton is the Associate Director of the Center for the Practice and Scholarship of Education and an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His areas of scholarship include student team management, assessment, education, and remediation, laboratory reform focused on student learning, visualization of quantitative data, and engineering system dynamics. He is a guitarist and songwriter in the alternative rock band “Whisper Down”.

visit author page

biography

Russell Long Purdue University

visit author page

Russell A. Long is Associate Director of MIDFIELD and Director of Project Assessment in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has twenty years experience in institutional research, assessment, strategic planning, and higher education policy. He is a SAS expert and manages the MIDFIELD database.

visit author page

biography

Susan Lord University of San Diego

visit author page

Susan M. Lord received a B.S. from Cornell University and the M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is currently Professor and Coordinator of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego. Her teaching and research interests include electronics, optoelectronics, materials science, first year engineering courses, feminist and liberative pedagogies, and student autonomy. Dr. Lord served as General Co-Chair of the 2006 Frontiers in Education Conference. She has been awarded NSF CAREER and ILI grants. She is currently working on a collaborative NSF-funded Gender in Science and Engineering project investigating persistence of women in engineering undergraduate programs. Dr. Lord’s industrial experience includes AT&T Bell Laboratories, General Motors Laboratories, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and SPAWAR Systems Center.

visit author page

biography

Mara Wasburn Purdue University

visit author page

Mara H. Wasburn, is Associate Professor of Organizational Leadership in the College of Technology at Purdue University. Her research, teaching, and service focus is on the effects of mentoring on both retention and success, particularly on women in technology-related disciplines. She serves as a consultant on workplace diversity issues.

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

How we measure success makes a difference: Eight-semester persistence and graduation rates for female and male engineering students Abstract

Recent research has shown that, although stereotypes prevail about women’s attrition rates in undergraduate engineering, there is no gender gap in the persistence of engineering students to the eighth semester of study. How “persistence” is measured, however, is of methodological concern as we look at what constitutes success. “Persistence” is reported in the literature in various ways as approximate measures of graduation, which is the ultimate goal.

To examine the relationship between measures of persistence and graduation, analyses were conducted using MIDFIELD (the Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating Engineering Longitudinal Development). The database includes student records from 75,686 first-time-in- college students matriculating in engineering at one of nine public universities in the southeastern United States. We found gender and institutional differences in the six-year graduation rates of students who persist to the eighth semester. An important result of this work is demonstrating how studying different outcomes can tell different stories about the same students: studying eight-semester persistence for aggregate populations can provide a reasonable surrogate for graduation, but may paint an overly optimistic picture at some institutions, and the study of both outcomes can provide new and valuable information about the student experience.

Background

There is disagreement in the literature concerning the existence of a gender gap in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines in general, and engineering in particular. Although conventional wisdom and a number of studies state that women persist in engineering majors at lower rates than do men,1,2 numerous studies document that women who matriculate directly into engineering majors persist at the similar rates to their male counterparts.3,4,5,6 In one study, the authors note that while there are fewer women present at each educational stage, they are more likely to persist in math, science, and engineering (STEM) disciplines.7

If standards of student quality are upheld, the most favorable institutional condition is a high eight-semester persistence leading to a high six-year graduation rate. Preliminary findings suggest that while some students may be on a journey of exploration,8 the combination of a high eight-semester persistence rate and a low six-year graduation rate may be indicative of a systematic process by which students become trapped in unsuccessful pathways. Thus, we suggest that, for a particular six-year graduation rate in engineering, a lower eight-semester persistence rate may be preferable because students who leave engineering are guided to their final outcome (graduation in another field or institutional departure) more quickly.

The study of gender differences in these outcomes reveals institutional differences in the experiences of women in engineering that suggest this approach can provide institutions with a useful benchmark for success in striving for gender equity in engineering. Further, the observed gender differences may provide large-scale quantitative support for earlier qualitative findings. 1

Ohland, M., & Camacho, M., & Layton, R., & Long, R., & Lord, S., & Wasburn, M. (2009, June), How We Measure Success Makes A Difference: Eight Semester Persistence And Graduation Rates For Female And Male Engineering Students Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/4937

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: © 2009 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