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Institutional Data as Motivation for Course-level Change in Engineering

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Asset Sourcing for Remaking Engineering Learning

Tagged Divisions

Equity and Culture & Social Justice in Education

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Paper Authors


Molly McVey The University of Kansas

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Dr. Molly A. McVey is a post-doctoral teaching fellow at the University of Kansas School of Engineering where she works with faculty to incorporate evidence-based and student-centered teaching methods, and to research the impacts of changes made to teaching on student learning and success. Dr. McVey earned her Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kansas in 2012.

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Caroline R. Bennett P.E. The University of Kansas

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Caroline is a Professor in the KU Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering department, with a specialty in structural engineering and bridge structures. She works closely with KU Engineering’s post-doctoral Teaching Fellow and oversees the overall Engaged Learning Initiative in the School of Engineering. Caroline is responsible for advancing implementation of student-centered, active-learning approaches in the School of Engineering. Caroline is also active in contributing to university-level discussions in the area of course redesign, and has been closely involved with the KU Center for Teaching Excellence since 2006. She regularly teaches courses in bridge engineering, steel buildings, structural analysis, fatigue and fracture, elastic stability, and how to be an effective college teacher.

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For decades, studies have called for attention to recruiting and retaining a diverse student population in STEM fields (Hrabowski 2011). These studies have documented discrepancies in success for under-represented minorities (URM) and first-generation college students (May and Chubin 2003, Stemleton and Soria 2012, Verdin et al. 2016). Studies have also suggested institutional and faculty-level changes that could reduce the achievement gap for minority students (Killpack 2016, Haak et al. 2011, Hartman et al. 2019). Specifically, increased transparency, structure, and the use of active learning have been shown to increase learning for historically under-served students and has no negative impact on any student group. However, faculty attitudes about retention, and an assumption that primarily weak students are the ones leaving the program can be barriers to widespread change (Hoessler 2019). In our School of Engineering, we are utilizing collaborations with our Office of Analytics and Institutional Research to better understand success for different groups of students that begin our programs, and we are utilizing this data to start conversations at the department level about discrepancies in student success with a goal of further motivating course transformation efforts.

We collected academic outcome data for 2,958 students who began in Engineering programs between Fall 2010- Fall 2014. Academic outcomes included graduating with an engineering degree, graduating with a non-engineering degree, leaving the University while still enrolled in engineering, leaving the University after first leaving engineering, and leaving the University after the first semester. We looked at academic outcomes by the following groups: male/female, URM/non-URM (URM includes Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American/Alaska Native, and anyone identifying with 2 or more race or ethnicities if one of them fell into those categories), first-generation/continuing generation, and Pell grant eligible/not Pell-grant eligible.

Results showed that 59% of all students who began in Engineering programs during the study period graduated with an engineering degree, 17% graduated with a non-engineering degree, and 24% left the University before getting a degree. Female students completed engineering degrees at slightly higher rates than male students and were less likely to leave the University with no degree. Engineering degree completion rates were 5-10% lower for students in URM, first-generation, or Pell-eligible groups. However, students in these groups who left Engineering were more likely to leave the University all together (33%-37% of students in under-represented groups left the University with no degree compared to 20-23% of students not in these groups).

This paper will discuss the results of the educational outcomes analysis for each group and for combinations of groups (i.e. first generation and Pell grant eligible) and compare to national numbers for Engineering programs. The paper will also discuss the steps we are taking to present this data to engineering departments and efforts to motivate course transformation with equity as a focus.

McVey, M., & Bennett, C. R. (2021, July), Institutional Data as Motivation for Course-level Change in Engineering Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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