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Living-Learning Communities as a Potential Intervention to Increase the Retention of First-Year Engineers

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Learning Outside the Classroom

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1020.1 - 22.1020.14



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Paper Authors

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Justin P. Micomonaco Michigan State University

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Promoting Persistence and Learning in Engineering Education Through Living-Learning Communities The challenge to produce both a greater quantity and greater quality of engineers in theUnited States is well-documented (Committee on Prospering the Global Economy, 2007;National Science Board, 2008). There have been considerable efforts to recruit additionalstudents to engineering, yielding modest results (Seymour, 2002; National Science Board).However, the increase in enrollment has not coincided with an increase in engineering graduates(National Science Board). Therefore the departure of students from the discipline remains anissue (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). One intervention used more generally in higher education is the living-learningcommunity (LLC). LLCs enable institutions to embed a smaller, more intimate learningenvironment for students within their larger enterprise (Gaff, 1970; Inkelas, Zeller, Murphy &Humell, 2006). In general, LLCs are recognized as promoting a number of outcomes linked tostudent success including increased engagement and connection to faculty (Gaff; Gamson, 2000;Inkelas, et al.). Despite this research, LLCs are used infrequently in the discipline of engineeringto support students. As a result, there is a lack of research on the effectiveness of LLCs topromote retention within the discipline and student learning. This paper outlines preliminary findings from a larger study on the impact of LLCs inengineering education. In this study, the LLC is an optional residential experience for first-yearengineers designed to promote increased retention rates within the college of engineering andimproved learning outcomes by supporting the student transition experience. The researchoccurred at a large, research-intensive institution in the Midwest where more than 90 percent offirst-year students live on campus. The data were collected during the LLCs’ first year ofimplementation when approximately 30 percent of first-year engineers chose to participate. Thestudy draws upon existing student data (e.g., demographics, pre-college characteristcs) andcollected survey data for all first-year engineering students at the institution (N = 493). Studentsin the first-year introductory design sequence received three survey administrations spanning theacademic year measuring students’ (a) reasons for choosing engineering, (b) expectations relatedto college and studying engineering, (c) attitudes and behaviors related to college and studyingengineering, and (d) learning outcomes. This paper draws from this longitudinal data set to compare students who participated inthe LLC with those who did not. The purpose of this paper is to address the followingpreliminary research questions:1. What are the characteristics (demographics, expectations, performance) of students whochoose to participate in an LLC?2. How, if at all, do students who participate in an LLC differ from students who choose not toparticipate? The data were analyzed using a variety of statistical techniques to study the relationshipsbetween these variables. The data suggest that the students participating in the LLC are notsignificantly different than those who choose not to participate in terms of pre-college and first-year academic performance with a few exceptions (e.g., first semester engineering course GPA).Some differences in participation exist between participants and non-participants in terms ofdemographic characteristics (e.g. gender, ethnicity). Finally the paper explores the basis forstudents’ decision whether or not to participate in the LLC, including potential linkages tostudents’ expectation for the study of engineering.

Micomonaco, J. P. (2011, June), Living-Learning Communities as a Potential Intervention to Increase the Retention of First-Year Engineers Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18290

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