July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
This work-in-progress paper is focused on exploring the effectiveness of a formal, makerspace-based course, required for all first-year engineering students at the XXXXX (XXXX) at the University of XX (XXX), in increasing first-year engineering retention. The project will study the impact that the research-identified interest-in-engineering construct has on engineering student retention. The ultimate goals are to characterize an effective formal makerspace experience in terms of enhancing student engineering interest and improving engineering retention, especially first-year engineering retention, without lowering academic standards. Research will be specifically focused on a relatively new course titled Engineering Methods, Tools, and Practice II (ENGR 111), that centers around a suite of hands-on makerspace-based activities. Preliminary results show that ENGR 111 has a positive influence on student interest in engineering; however, more research is needed to understand the impact and the causal mechanisms of this intervention. The conceptual framework for this study has two phases. The first phase will focus on first-year engineering student retention; the second phase will focus on longer term student retention through the “gateway” phase of the XXXX engineering program. Research on the formal makerspace experience will include studying the role that individual makerspace features play in influencing student interest in engineering, with a particular focus on differences in impact that these features may or may not have on historically underrepresented students. We will also assess the extent to which makerspace course feature enhancements, implemented and refined based on Phase 1 outcomes, influence first-year retention in engineering. The second phase of the project explores the relationship between retention and two different levels of the interest-in-engineering persistence barrier: short-term interest triggered in the moment (situational interest) and long-term interest that is maintained (individual interest).
A major contributing factor to ongoing low-level retention rates in STEM fields is the nature of many first- and second-year gateway courses, resulting in an undesirably large number of student attrition. We hypothesize that if student experiences can be implemented in the first year that outweigh the discouragement resulting from experiences in certain early courses, then students will be more likely to persevere through these courses and persist in engineering. While makerspaces have excited considerable interest, much of the research on makerspace impacts and practices have focused on K-12 and informal education. Little is known about how a well-designed makerspace-based engineering course can address barriers to first-year students’ persistence in engineering. This study will provide a better understanding of the potential of makerspace pedagogy in addressing common reasons why first-year engineering students drop out of engineering school. Institutions that do not have the advantage of makerspace resource(s) could still benefit from this study by an increased understanding of the impact interest in engineering has on student retention. In turn, strategies that address this barrier could still be employed in other engineering classrooms and/or programs.
Enhancing first-year engineering student retention is expected in turn to increase the number of people who obtain a degree in engineering. The potential in improving retention without lowering academic standards has a significant positive bearing on the status of society, since there will be more members joining the workforce while still possessing the knowledge and skills necessary to be a positively contributing member of the engineering community. The first-year retention barrier identified for investigation within this study play a particularly prominent role in retention of women and underrepresented minorities in engineering.
Robinson, B. S., & Tretter, T., & Lewis, J. E., & Hawkins, N. (2021, July), Measuring First-Year Engineering Majors' Interest in Engineering Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://strategy.asee.org/37493
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