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Living in Two Worlds: Comparing Chemical Engineering Students to Other Engineers and Chemists

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

"How Do We Compare?" - Students, Case Studies, and Learning Approaches

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.872.1 - 23.872.11



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Paper Authors

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Allison Godwin Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Geoff Potvin Clemson University

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Living in Two Worlds: Comparing Chemical Engineering Students to Other Engineers and ChemistsOften, engineering students are treated as a homogeneous monolith in education research settings.Relatively few studies have examined the differences between students who choose particularengineering disciplines in college. This results in missed opportunities to improve the recruitment,retention, and teaching practices for the students who enter, for example, chemical engineeringclassrooms as well as other engineering majors.This paper explores the differences between chemical engineering students and students of otherengineering disciplines as well as chemistry majors. The data used in this analysis was drawn from thenationally-representative Sustainability and Gender in Engineering (SaGE) survey. This surveycollected responses from 6772 students in first-year English classes during Fall 2011. The surveyincluded topics covering students' experiences in their last high school science classes, beliefs aboutengineering and sustainability, as well as their demographics and prior academic performance.One question analyzed in this paper asked students to “Please rate the current likelihood of yourchoosing a career in the following” for a variety of careers on a Likert-type scale. According tostudents responses on this item, 123 students were categorized as chemical engineering students (29%of which were female), 691 students were categorized as “other” engineering (18% of which werefemale), and 251 students were categorized as chemistry majors (50% of which were female). Weseparately compared the responses of the chemical engineering students with these two disparategroups respectively to identify differences in their high school experiences, attitudes, and backgroundsusing t-tests for linear variables and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests for dichotomous variables.Chemical engineering students show uniqueness in their career goals when compared to both engineersas well as chemistry majors. For example, they differ significantly from other engineers in severaldimensions including their prior chemistry experiences, problem solving strategies, and their scienceidentity. Chemical engineers are almost indistinguishable from chemistry students in their high schoolscience experiences and academic preparedness except for their physics and math identities. Thefindings in this work have implications for student recruitment and matriculation into chemicalengineering and the instruction of these students. By accounting for the unique experiences, goals andmotivations of those students who enter chemical engineering, it may be possible to more effectivelyrecruit students into chemical engineering through specific support and encouragement as well asbroaden the pool of individuals who ultimately enter the chemical engineering profession. Additionally,the development of classroom pedagogies that reflects students’ values and interests may increasestudent interest in chemical engineering coursework and, by increasing the relevance of the curriculum,lead to more effective teaching and learning in chemical engineering courses.Please include this paper in a regular session.

Godwin, A., & Potvin, G. (2013, June), Living in Two Worlds: Comparing Chemical Engineering Students to Other Engineers and Chemists Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19886

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