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Learning Styles And Freshman Retention: What Are The Links?

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.880.1 - 10.880.10



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Paper Authors

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Anna Lambert

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Aaron Robinson

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Charles Camp

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Jeff Marchetta

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Laura Lackey

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Stephanie Ivey

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

Learning Styles and Freshman Attrition: What Are The Links? Stephanie Ivey1, Laura Lackey2, Anna Lambert1, Charles Camp1, Jeff Marchetta3, Aaron Robinson4 1 Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Memphis/ 2 Department of Chemical Engineering, Mercer University/ 3 Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Memphis/ 4 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, The University of Memphis


One of the most urgent issues in engineering education relates to levels of attrition and retention of undergraduate engineering students. Most institutions track this data at the university level, meaning that university administrators are easily able to identify students who switch majors from engineering to other areas or identify students who leave the university completely, but there is minimal follow-up data provided at the college and department level.

Our research examines the issue of first-semester attrition from the following perspectives: (1) the individual differences perspective: can data from a 10-minute psychological learning-style survey distributed on the first day of class be used as a means of early-identification of first- semester engineering students who may not continue in engineering? (2) the correlational feedback perspective: what correlations exist between learning-style survey scores and end-of- semester qualitative survey data?

Findings in this study will be further examined from a multi-university perspective: one smaller, private university with relatively low levels of attrition, and another large, urban university with a higher average rate of attrition between the first and second semesters of engineering education. Our conclusions will explore the similarities between our students and faculty, the disparities between the two institutions, and look for multiple methods to strengthen both programs by increased levels of understanding and knowledge regarding attrition and retention patterns.


A common concern among engineering educators is the consistently high rate of freshman student attrition from engineering programs. Depending on the source of literature cited, the attrition rate in undergraduate science, math, and engineering programs ranges from 40-70%, with a critical period of attrition between the freshman and sophomore years.

There are multiple research questions addressed in this pilot-scale project, all of which focus on the central issues of attrition and retention levels between the first and second semesters of engineering studies. Specific areas of emphasis include these questions:

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Lambert, A., & Robinson, A., & Camp, C., & Marchetta, J., & Lackey, L., & Ivey, S. (2005, June), Learning Styles And Freshman Retention: What Are The Links? Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14137

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