San Antonio, Texas
June 10, 2012
June 10, 2012
June 13, 2012
25.851.1 - 25.851.20
Introduction to Engineering: Preparing First-Year Students for an Informed Major ChoiceResearch into how the first-year experience influences the engineering-discipline major choicesand retention in a large western state university is underway. A new introduction-to-engineeringcourse, designed to introduce the engineering profession and to prepare students to make aninformed discipline-major choice was piloted in preparation to replace the traditionalintroduction-to-major courses currently taught by the discipline-major programs. The objectivesof the pilot course are: 1) to broadly introduce the engineering profession and potential careeropportunities, 2) to present the College’s major disciplines and enable an informed major choice,3) to present the academic expectations of the College, and to discuss strategies, tools, and life-style choices for success. The course was developed to emphasize the three-dimensional view ofengineering learning that addresses disciplinary knowledge, identification, and navigation . Inthis one-credit course, students attend two 50-min sessions per week over a 15-week semester.The first is a plenary session delivered by a faculty teaching team focused on the topics of theengineering profession that are common across the disciplines and majors. Plenary sessions alsoinclude major-discipline presentations by faculty representatives from each of the majorprograms. Following the first few weeks of discipline-major presentations, students compareand contrast the discipline majors, report on an out-of-class discussion about the majors withanother student, and then reflect upon their assessment of the major relative to their currentinterests. This exercise is repeated after other major-discipline presentations, followed by a finalcourse reflection. Lessons on strategies for social integration, academic success, and academicand professional ethics, are presented throughout the 15-week course. The course is assessedaccording to a detailed assessment schedule with targeted pre-, mid- and post-assessments.First-year projects courses that introduce students to the process of engineering design withhands-on projects have documented success , and past findings show that courses should bedesigned to address students’ discipline-major choices and to improve subsequent studentretention . Following these findings, the second weekly session is a 50-min discipline moduleconducted by the faculty of the major programs. The modules are rotated each five weeks so thatduring the course of the 15-week semester a student participates in three discipline modules. TheNational Academy of Engineering’s Engineering Grand Challenges  are used to focus all thediscipline modules onto a common set of “big” problems that will likely shape the careers ofmany of our current first-year students. The module curriculum focuses on the process togenerate engineering design requirements. Student teams, created with the ComprehensiveAssessment for Team-Member Effectiveness (CATME) Team-Maker tool , are guided in afour-week exercise to scope a project that applies the engineering discipline to a specific GrandChallenge, including some basic calculations for feasibility, cost estimates, and preliminarydesign requirements. The team deliverable is a poster that describes the Grand Challenge, thescoping activity, and the design requirements. Scoring rubrics are used by the faculty andstudents during the poster session. The poster presentation activity encourages students tointeract and discuss their ideas for how the engineering disciplines might be applied to the GrandChallenges. Other activities in the discipline modules include speakers, panels, and lab tours tointroduce the students to the discipline major. Peer assessments using CATME are conducted atthe end of each module, and students are surveyed on their module experience.To support the new first-year course and the College’s broader effort to assess the experiences offirst-year students, four studies were conducted by graduate research fellows funded through anational education and research center. These studies are aligned with course objectives andfocused on first-year experiences. The titles of these studies are: 1) Educating first-year studentson the social impacts of the engineering profession, 2) Changes in first year female students’perceptions of a future in engineering, 3) Determining first-year students’ understanding ofhonor code violations, and 4) Motivational factors for engineering students and the impact onretention. These studies primarily use data from surveys and interviews of students in the first-year curriculum. Findings of the studies will be presented in the paper along with specificimplications for the introduction to engineering course.References Stevens, R., O’Connor, K., Garrison, L., Jocuns, A., and Amos, D., “Becoming an Engineer:Toward a Three Dimensional View of Engineering Learning,” J. Engineering Ed., Jul 2008, pp.355-368. Fortenberry, N. L., Sullivan, J. F., Jordan, P. N., and Knight, D. W., “Engineering EducationResearch Aids Instruction, Science, Vol. 317, Aug 2007, pp. 1175-1176. Hoit, M. and Ohland, M., “The Impact of a Discipline-Based Introduction to EngineeringCourse on Improving Retention,” J. Engineering Ed., Jan 1998, pp. 79-85. NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering, http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/. Sourceaccessed 9/7/2011 CATME Team-Maker, https://engineering.purdue.edu/CATME. Source accessed 9/7/2011.
Argrow, B. M., & Louie, B., & Knight, D. W., & Canney, N. E., & Brown, S., & Blanford, A. J., & Gibson, C. L., & Kenney, E. D. (2012, June), Introduction to Engineering: Preparing First-year Students for an Informed Major Choice Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21608
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