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Hybrid Engineering Matriculation Model to Promote Informed Engineering-Major Selection Decisions

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 16: That Important Decision - Which Engineering Major?

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.867.1 - 26.867.14



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Paper Authors


M. Jean Mohammadi-Aragh Mississippi State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jean Mohammadi-Aragh is an assistant research professor with a joint appointment in the Bagley College of Engineering dean’s office and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Mississippi State University. Through her role in the Hearin Engineering First-year Experiences (EFX) Program, she is assessing the college’s current first-year engineering efforts, conducting rigorous engineering education research to improve first-year experiences, and promoting the adoption of evidence-based instructional practices. In addition to research in first year engineering, Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh investigates technology-supported classroom learning and using scientific visualization to improve understanding of complex phenomena. She earned her Ph.D. (2013) in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech, and both her M.S. (2004) and B.S. (2002) in Computer Engineering from Mississippi State. In 2013, Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh was honored as a promising new engineering education researcher when she was selected as an ASEE Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty.

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James Warnock Mississippi State University

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James Warnock is the Interim Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. His background is in biomedical engineering and he has been a big proponent of self-directed learning and active learning in his classes and was the first person to introduce problem-based learning in the department of agricultural and biological engineering at MSU. James is also the Adjunct Director for training and instruction in the professional services department at ABET. In this role, Warnock oversees the development, planning, production and implementation of the ABET Program Assessment Workshops, IDEAL and the assessment webinar series. He also directs activities related to the workshop facilitator training and professional development.

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Amy Barton Mississippi State University

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Amy Barton (M.A. in English from Mississippi State University) is an instructor in the Technical Communication Program in MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering. She teaches Technical Writing, a junior-level writing course required of all undergraduate engineering students. She has also taught high school English, Freshman Composition, and Introduction to Literature. Through this varied teaching experience, she has learned to tailor instructional techniques to meet the needs of different types of learners. She focuses on implementing writing-to-learn strategies in engineering courses to keep students engaged and improve critical thinking skills. She has presented on writing-to-learn topics at the ASEE Southeastern Section Conference and led writing workshops for faculty who are interested in adding writing assignments to their courses.

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Rani Warsi Sullivan Mississippi State University

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Dr. Rani Warsi Sullivan is an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Mississippi State University. Dr. Sullivan has teaching and research interests in the area of solid mechanics, aircraft materials and structures, and engineering education. Current research includes fiber optic strain sensing for development of an in-flight structural health monitoring system, characterization of the time-dependent deformation of polymer nanocomposites, and strength and vibration testing of full scale composite air vehicles.

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Bill B Elmore Mississippi State University

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Bill B. Elmore, Ph.D., P.E., is an Associate Professor and Interim Director of the Swalm School of Chemical Engineering. In his role as the Hunter Henry Chair, he serves as Undergraduate Coordinator for the chemical engineering program and Faculty Advisor for the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. His research interests include biotechnology for renewable energy and innovation in engineering education through integration of problem-based learning across engineering curricula.

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Jane Nicholson Moorhead Mississippi State University

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Hybrid Introduction to Engineering Model to Promote Informed Engineering-Major Selection Decisions Students who chose an engineering major because they identify with the engineering-relatedactivities of that field are more likely to be retained. The limited knowledge of engineering thatmost students posses when they choose an engineering major negatively effects theircommitment to their selected major (Lichtenstein et al., 2007). Introduction to engineeringcourses are one way to promote informed engineering major decisions among engineeringstudents (Argrow et al., 2012; Orr, Brawner, Ohland, & Layton, 2013). However, one of the most prominent models for first-year engineering is the directmatriculation model (Chen, Brawner, Ohland, & Orr, 2013), in which students must select amajor before enrolling in a single university-level course. While some high schools do haveengineering courses, many, especially those in poor rural areas, do not. In areas withoutengineering courses, students often rely on non-engineering professionals (e.g., high schoolcounselors) to make engineering-major decisions. Despite efforts to “change the conversation”,it is still commonplace for these non-engineering professionals to state that a student shouldmajor in engineering simply because the student excels in math and science. Thus, the directmatriculation model often involves uninformed decision making when students are choosing amajor. For retention purposes, it is important for colleges of engineering to support informeddecisions regarding engineering-major choice. In this paper we discuss our efforts to promote informed decision making within the contextof a direct matriculation model. We are exploring a hybrid model for first-year engineering thatpreserves our existing eight major-specific introduction to engineering course within our eightengineering departments and adds a general introduction to engineering course for undecidedstudents. In this paper, we discuss some of the challenges we faced while transitioning to the hybridmodel. For example, one challenge we faced when developing the general introduction toengineering course focused on addressing differences between existing major-specific courses.While preparing for our new intro course, in Fall 2013 we conducted an assessment of existingmajor-specific intro courses at our institution. We used Reid et al.’s (2013) first-yearengineering classification scheme to examine differences and similarities for course content inthe existing courses. After identifying substantial differences in content, instructional design,and credit hours across all eight major-specific courses, we acknowledged that developing ageneral introduction to engineering course that would satisfy all requirements for all departmentswas not feasible without significant curricula changes. Instead we focused on developing acourse that would satisfy requirements for a majority of departments and clearly informedstudents of the departments that would require their own major-specific intro course in additionto the general course. This and other challenges to our hybrid model are discussed. We also discuss course design details in the full paper. In Fall 2014, our general introductionto engineering course was piloted. The course was taught by six faculty and was comprised offour engineering modules (engineering mechanics, process engineering, product dissection, andtech writing) and panel sessions that introduce students to the various engineering degreeprograms. Through an analysis of students’ pre/post-course concept maps and course surveys, weevaluated students’ understanding of the differences between disciplines and the impact ofvarious components of the course on their engineering major selection decisions.Argrow, B.M., Louie, B., Knight, D.W., Canney, N.E., Brown, S., Banford, A.J., Gibson, C.L.,and Kenney, E.D. (2012). Introduction to engineering: Preparing first-year students for aninformed major choice. American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference. SanAntonio, TX.Chen, X., Brawner, C. E., Ohland, M. W., & Orr, M. K. (2013). A taxonomy of engineeringmatriculation practices. American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference,Atlanta GA.Lichtenstein, G., Loshbaugh, H., Claar, B., Bailey, T., and Sheppard, S.D. (2007). Should I stayor should I go? Engineering students’ persistence is based on little experience or data. AmericanSociety for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Honolulu, HI.Orr, M.K., Brawner, C.E., Ohland, M.W., & Layton, R.A. (2013). The effect of a requiredintroduction to engineering course on retention and major selection. American Society forEngineering Education Annual Conference, Atlanta GA.Reid, K., Hertenstein, T.J., Fennell, G.T., Spingola, E.M., & Reeping, D. (2013). Developmentof a first-year engineering course classification scheme. American Society for EngineeringEducation Annual Conference, Atlanta GA.

Mohammadi-Aragh, M. J., & Warnock, J., & Barton, A., & Sullivan, R. W., & Elmore, B. B., & Moorhead, J. N. (2015, June), Hybrid Engineering Matriculation Model to Promote Informed Engineering-Major Selection Decisions Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24204

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