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Major Hopping: A Cohort Analysis

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.279.1 - 2.279.10



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Paper Authors

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Lynn Fountain

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Donna Llewellyn

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

Session 2630

Major Hopping: A Cohort Analysis

Lynn Fountain, Donna Llewellyn Georgia Institute of Technology

In 1993, Georgia Tech embarked on a series of General Education Assessment seminars with the aim of studying how to measure the impact of our programs in the general educational arena (as opposed to the curricula defined by academic majors). These seminars were designed after the Harvard Assessment Series led by Dr. Richard Light. One issue that arose in these discussions was the pattern of major changes at Georgia Tech. There is a lot of folklore at Tech about these patterns and there is a generally held belief that they differ by gender. Drs. Lynn Fountain, then of the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) and Donna Llewellyn, of the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, set out to see if this modern legend would hold up to the scrutiny of data. During the course of the data collection and analysis, Drs. Fountain and Llewellyn became part of an NSF funded multi-institutional project called InGEAR (Integrating Gender Equity And Reform) whose goal is to impact gender equity in education through teacher preparation programs. Part of this grant is dedicated to institutional self-studies for the five universities and colleges involved. Since by the time InGEAR had started at Tech the General Assessment Seminar Series had finished, the major changing pattern study was folded into this institutional self-study.

Fairly unique among engineering programs, Georgia Tech enjoys a higher retention rate for its women in engineering majors than its corresponding men. There are many proposed reasons for this anomaly including 1. Tech does not have a large physical science component so that there are not many obvious places for disillusioned engineering students to transfer to within Tech; 2. There is a sample bias of the women who decide to matriculate at Tech - they have already decided that they want a quantitative education in a predominantly male environment; 3. There is usually a strong family pressure to remain at Tech once enrolled. There was a hypothesis, though, that women find explicit coping mechanisms in order to remain at Tech. One proposed such mechanism is changing majors - the search for a niche where they can feel comfortable. In order to properly investigate these hypotheses, there are several necessary steps: 1. Analyze major changes to see if there is a quantitative difference across gender; 2. If there is a quantitative difference, investigate if the patterns of changes are different; 3. Interview students to find out their opinions of major changing.

Investigation of number one above was immediately hampered by the fact that Georgia Tech does not explicitly keep records of students’ major changes. At any time, there is a one line computer record of the student’s current major - it is overwritten whenever the student changes

Fountain, L., & Llewellyn, D. (1997, June), Major Hopping: A Cohort Analysis Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6672

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