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Improving Student Success and Retention Rates in Engineering: An Innovative Approach for First-year Courses

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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 10: Paying Attention to Retention

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.926.1 - 26.926.13



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Paper Authors


Steffen Peuker California Polytechnic State University

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Dr. Steffen Peuker holds the James L. Bartlett, Jr. Assistant Professor position in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the California State University in San Luis Obispo. He is teaching courses, including laboratories, in the HVAC&R concentration and mechanical engineering including first-year courses. Dr. Peuker's educational research focuses on increasing student retention and success in engineering through implementation of a student success focused approach in introduction to engineering courses. In addition, his work in engineering education focuses on collaborative learning, student-industry cooperation, and developing innovative ways of merging engineering fundamentals and engineering in practice and research. He can be reached at

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Nova Alexandria Glinski Schauss Oregon State University

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Nova Schauss is the Student Success Specialist in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University. She works with first-year pre-engineering students in negative academic standing, first-year retention initiatives, academic advising delivery models and assessment, and orientation course curriculum focused on success within engineering majors. Nova’s research interests include resiliency development within an academic advising framework, and enhancement of first-year engineering curricula to increase retention of academically underprepared students. She can be reached at

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Improving Student Success and Retention Rates in Engineering: An Innovative Approach for First-Year CoursesTo strengthen the commitment of first-year engineering students and improve retention rates, aninnovative approach has been developed linking student development focused first-year coursesand a project called “Design Your Process of Becoming a World-Class Engineering Student”.Set within developmental first-year courses, the project challenges students to design theirindividually tailored learning process to have a significant impact on their academic success byimproving the students’ skills, confidence and motivation to succeed in engineering.The approach is currently implemented in over 30 institutions nationwide. The results from twofour year institutions one year after initial implementation are presented.Initial results from the first institution showed that the approach of linking a student developmentcourse and the “Design Your Process of Becoming a World-Class Engineering Student” projecthad a positive impact on first-year engineering student retention and performance. Thecumulative GPA of the students who took the course (N=151) was 3.00 after the first year,compared to 2.51 (N=112) of the control group, showing a statically significant difference(p<0.001). The retention rate after one year was not found to be statistically significant at the fivepercent level (p=0.08), however, an increase from 79.5% to 87.4% in the first year retention ratewas observed.Although the sample size at the second institution was significantly smaller, the results areremarkably similar to the first institution. The cumulative GPA of the students who took thecourse (N=17) was 3.04 after the first term, compared to 2.48 of the control group (N=17).Instead of retention rate, the percent of students in good academic standings was measured,showing 88.2% of students who took the course were in good academic standing after the firstterm, compared to 70.6% of the control group. Data will be reassessed in October of 2014 toascertain the impact of the course one year after implementation, and results will be included inthe final version of this paper.The implementation at both institutions was accomplished cost neutral; the only investment wasthe time by the faculty to re-design the course content. Based on the first year implementationresults from both institutions, the approach of linking a student development course with the“Design Your Process of Becoming a World-Class Engineering Student” project is an effectivemethod to improve engineering student success and retention rates, because it can beimplemented virtually anywhere with minimal cost and change of curriculum.

Peuker, S., & Schauss, N. A. G. (2015, June), Improving Student Success and Retention Rates in Engineering: An Innovative Approach for First-year Courses Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24263

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