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Impact of Academic Performance Improvement (API) Skills on Math and Science Achievement Gains

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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

Research on Learning, Performance, and Impact

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.683.1 - 23.683.35



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Paper Authors


Sylvanus N. Wosu University of Pittsburgh

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Sylvanus N. Wosu, PhD
Associate Dean for Diversity Affairs
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Swanson School of Engineering
University of Pittsburgh

Sylvanus N. Wosu, Associate Dean for Diversity Affairs at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. As the Associate Dean for Diversity Affairs, Dr. Wosu is responsible for the Engineering Office of Diversity (EOD) which is committed to fostering an environment in which faculty, staff and students are valued for their unique cultures, experiences and perspectives. The EOD identifies high qualified undergraduate students and assists in their preparation for graduate research and education by building a diverse workforce and student body and by developing equitable academic supports designed to meet the academic needs of the student body without discrimination.

Dr. Wosu has developed and directed mentoring programs for preparing women and underrepresented college students for graduate education, and high school students for college careers. Since coming to the University of Pittsburgh, he has created several programs including the Pitt Engineering Career Access Program (PECAP), a program to increase the enrollment and retention of underrepresented and economically or academically disadvantaged students in engineering education and the Pre-PhD Scholars programs, to increase the numbers of underrepresented students earning doctorates in Engineering. Dr. Wosu also works to institutionalize initiatives that provide an inclusive and safe environment for all students—one that fosters effective multi-cultural interaction and communication, reducing the isolation of any group, and increasing the School’s ability to provide equitable educational support services.

As an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Wosu has been an engineering educator for over 20 years. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum engineering. He earned a Master of Science degree in industrial and applied physics at the Central Oklahoma State University and a Master of Science degree and a PhD in engineering physics at University of Oklahoma.

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ASEE Paper Impact of Academic Performance Improvement (API) Skills on Math and Science Achievement Gains Sylvanus N. Wosu University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering Pittsburgh, PA 15261AbstractThe need to channel underrepresented minority students into the sciences continues to be a major nationalpriority. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in America is not yetachieving satisfactory results with traditionally underrepresented minority students. The high attrition rateof African Americans from the STEM pipeline has been identified as a greater barrier to increasedrepresentation than their attraction to non-quantitative fields. Critical thinking skills and self-directedinquiry are two areas that if enhanced at the entry level of science and engineering education, couldpossibly increase motivation for STEM careers for minority students when other barriers are addressed.The most common of these barriers were identified by others as: (1) deficiencies in K-12 activities thatrelate STEM to real world experience, (2) insufficient hands-on activity in K-12, (3) lack of solidpreparation for college work and the conceptual basis for further development, and (4) over-reliance onSAT scores. Merely "covering" the topic or teaching unit is not sufficient to assure that the material willactually help students learn important ideas within those topics. There is a need within the curriculum fora process focused on how to effectively deliver the fundamental idea of the material to help the studentslearn and retain the core concept.Critical and Analytical Reasoning Enrichment (CARE) program administered at the University ofPittsburgh identified analytical skill deficiencies and low motivation for mathematics and science coursesat the pre-college level as major causes of the poor preparation and low enrollment of students from theunderrepresented groups into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Theproject defines Academic Performance Improvement (API) skills index as the difference between the preand post test results. The Academic Performance Improvement (API) skills are defined as those skills thatdirectly impact the academic performance of students in STEM careers. These include such skills as -critical thinking, analytical reasoning, quantitative literacy, study/time management skills,communication, and problem solving skills. The Project CARE strategy for addressing the identifiedproblems is based on four fundamental premises: (1) enrichment of the Academic PerformanceImprovement (API) skills will minimize the barriers that hinder students’ performance and attraction toSTEM careers, (2) use of collaborative learning contribute to students’ motivation and interest in STEMcareers, (3) enrichment of API skills to prepare students for science and engineering should begin earlier,during the middle and high school grades, and (4) support services for these students must continuethrough college until degree completion. Lack of 75% of these skills will hinder students’ performanceand attraction to STEM careers.Modeling the API index as a linear combination of API skills as variables shows that each of the variableshas a significant effect on the students API and achievement gain. Project CARE was 65% effective inpreparing high school students for college level math and science instructions, as well as enriching theirAcademic Improvement skills and ability to excel in their senior year of high school. CARE contributedto 86% educational growth and 35% academic performance improvement among those students whoscored lowest on the pre-test compared to 25% improvement among those that scored highest in the pre-test. Project CARE was most effective in providing a pathway for educational growth, strengtheningstudy skills, enhancing the ability to manage time and organize work, preparing for the next step. Self-confidence remains the lowest (54%) for 9 and 10th grade students who still appear to be intimidated bymath and science compared to 11 and 12th grade students (67%).

Wosu, S. N. (2013, June), Impact of Academic Performance Improvement (API) Skills on Math and Science Achievement Gains Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19697

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