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Initial Observations On Student Retention And Course Satisfaction Based On First Year Engineering Student Surveys And Interviews

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

What Makes Them Continue?

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Page Numbers

8.705.1 - 8.705.13



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Paper Authors

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Silliman Stephen

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Leo Hubbard McWilliams

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Catherine Pieronek

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

Session 3553

Initial Observations on Student Retention and Course Satisfaction Based on First-Year Engineering Student Surveys and Interviews

Catherine Pieronek, Leo H. McWilliams, Stephen E. Silliman

University of Notre Dame


The College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame will complete the third year of its new Introduction to Engineering course sequence at the end of the Spring 2003 semester. Retention statistics, student surveys and exit interviews conducted by faculty, engineering administrators and first-year student advisors have provided insight into the retention characteristics of first-year engineering intents. Some initial observations include the following: changes in the format and content of the material presented in the first semester appear to affect retention rates, particularly for women; women drop the course at a higher rate than men; and women appear both to enter engineering programs for reasons different than men and to express a lower level of confidence than men with respect to the technology-related skills and experiences they brought to the course. These observations have encouraged us to consider modifications to the course, continuing to focus on the primary goal of improving the quality of the learning experience, while also addressing student retention, particularly with regard to women. These observations have also encouraged us to refine our data collection to provide greater insight into how changes in the course structure and content affect retention.


The College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame has devoted significant resources to the development and implementation of a two-semester, six-credit-hour course sequence for first-year students intending to major in engineering as sophomores (engineering intents). Notre Dame’s efforts arose from an identified concern over the quality of the first-year experience within the engineering curriculum. In an effort to assess how this course impacts the quality of the first-year experience, the College has conducted a number of student surveys and exit interviews. While these data have proven invaluable in assessing the overall impact of the course, they have also provided insights into student retention over the course of the first year. These insights have provided guidance with respect to such issues as whether:

the timing for presenting particular course material affect either the timing or the rate of student retention;

the topical content of the course affects student drops;

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Stephen, S., & McWilliams, L. H., & Pieronek, C. (2003, June), Initial Observations On Student Retention And Course Satisfaction Based On First Year Engineering Student Surveys And Interviews Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12189

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