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Is There a Correlation between First-Year Critical Thinking Assessment Test Performance and Retention among Civil Engineering Students?

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

FPD 11: Culminating Considerations

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.829.1 - 24.829.11

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Paper Authors


Yvette Pearson Weatherton University of Texas, Arlington Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Yvette Pearson Weatherton received her Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science (Environmental Engineering) from the University of New Orleans in 2000. She is Associate Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, a Program Evaluator for the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, and a registered Professional Engineer in Louisiana.

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Andrew P. Kruzic University of Texas, Arlington

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Stephen P Mattingly University of Texas, Arlington


Ziaur Rahman The University of Texas at Arlington

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Ziaur Rahman received his Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.) degree in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology, Dhaka, in June 2007. After completing his Bachelor degree, he started his graduate studies in Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington in August 2008. He completed his Masters of Engineering (M. Eng.) degree under the supervision of Dr. Siamak Ardekani. He continued his graduate studies as a Ph. D. student under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Mattingly in Fall 2010. The author’s research interests include Incident Management, Operations and Safety, Traffic Flow, and Statistical Modeling. He presented at several TexITE meetings on Wrongway Movement and Incident Management. He is actively involved with different student organizations and served as the president of Institute of Transportation Engineers(ITE), and Bangladesh Student Organization at UTA in 2012-2013.

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Heather L Frost

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Is There a Correlation between First Year Critical Thinking Assessment Test Performance and Retention among Civil Engineering Students?A team of faculty from the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of XXX receivedfunding in 2010 to support a project entitled “XXX”. The aim of the project is to improve thedecision making capabilities of students with emphasis on critical thinking and alternativeanalysis. This is being accomplished through the development and implementation of targetedmodules for required courses in the freshman through senior years. Gains in critical thinkingcapabilities are measured using the Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT), which studentscomplete at the beginning and end of their undergraduate programs. This paper focuses on theresults of the first semester assessment results as they pertain to retention.By requiring faculty to grade the exams, the CAT gives them first-hand knowledge of students’strengths and weaknesses related to critical thinking, allowing them to make instructionalmodifications that should ultimately result in improved student learning. While previous studieshave used the CAT to determine learning gains in specific science courses, this study seeks toshow the correlation between first semester CAT performance and the likelihood that a student isretained in civil engineering. Further, researchers have shown the importance of advancedcritical thinking skills in undergraduate education and in the workforce. They have alsodemonstrated the shortcomings of many programs – including engineering programs – incultivating those capabilities in undergraduate students. However, studies directly correlatingundergraduate engineering student retention and critical thinking assessment performance are notreadily available.This study uses first semester CAT performance data, along with other parameters that aredemonstrated indicators of student retention (e.g. SAT Math scores, grade point averages,mathematics performance, participation in learning communities) to perform various correlationanalyses. The analyses show the relationship between early CAT performance and retention, andinclude a determination of the relative strengths of the aforementioned parameters and CATresults as predictors of retention among civil engineering students. The results may be used tofurther substantiate the need for increased higher order thinking in engineering curricula,focusing on the need to improve critical thinking capabilities in freshman engineering students.References (partial list)Adams, R., Evangelou, D., English, L., Figueredo, A. D., Mousoulides, N., Pawley, A. L. et al.(2011). “Multiple Perspectives on Engaging Future Engineers.” J. Engineering Education. Vol.100, No. 1, p.48-88.Felder, R. M. and Brent, R. “The Intellectual Development of Science and Engineering StudentsPart 1: Models and Challenges.” J. Engineering Education, October 2004, p. 269-277.Felder, R. M. and Brent, R. “The Intellectual Development of Science and Engineering StudentsPart 2: Teaching to Promote Growth.” J. Engineering Education, October 2004, p. 279-291.Gasper, B. J. and Gardener, S. M. “Engaging Students in Authentic Microbiology Research inan Introductory Biology Laboratory Course is Correlated with Gains in Understanding of theNature of Authentic Research and Critical Thinking.” J. Microbiology & Biology Education,May 2013, p. 25-34.Gottesman, A. J. and Hoskins, S. G. (2013). “CREATE Cornerstone: Introduction to ScientificThinking, a New Course for STEM-Interested Freshmen, Demystifies Scientific Thinkingthrough Analysis of Scientific Literature.” CBE-Life Sciences Education. Vol. 12, p.59-72.Lumsdaine, M. and Lumsdaine, E. (1995). “Thinking Preferences of Engineering Students:Implications for Curriculum Restructuring.” J. Engineering Education. p.193-204.Stein, B., Haynes, A., Redding, M., Ennis, T. and Cecil, M. (2007). “Assessing CriticalThinking in STEM and Beyond.” Innovations in E-learning, Instruction Technology,Assessment and Engineering Education. p.79-82.Stein, B., Haynes, A. and Redding, M. (2006). “Project CAT: Assessing Critical ThinkingSkills.” Proceedings of the National STEM Assessment Conference. p.290-299.Stein, B., Haynes, A. and Redding, M. (2008). “Project CAT: Assessing Critical Thinking SkillsFinal Report.”

Pearson Weatherton, Y., & Kruzic, A. P., & Mattingly, S. P., & Rahman, Z., & Frost, H. L. (2014, June), Is There a Correlation between First-Year Critical Thinking Assessment Test Performance and Retention among Civil Engineering Students? Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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