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Measuring Undergraduate Student Perceptions of the Impact of Project Lead The Way

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Linking K-12 to Post-secondary

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.925.1 - 25.925.10



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Paper Authors


Noah Salzman Purdue University

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Noah Salzman is a graduate student in engineering education and mechanical engineering at Purdue University. He received his B.S. in engineering from Swarthmore College, and his M.Ed. in secondary science education from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has work experience as both an engineer and taught science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at the high school level. His research focuses on the intersection of pre-college and undergraduate engineering programs.

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Eric L. Mann Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Eric L. Mann is an Assistant Professor of educational studies and a faculty member of both the Istitute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) and the Gifted Education Resource Institute (GERI) at Purdue University. After a military career involving the the design and operation of space systems and several years teaching middle science and mathematics, Mann earned his Ph.D. in educational psychology from University of Connecticut. Mann’s research interests center on creativity and talent development within science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) disciplines.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Associate Professor of engineering education at Purdue University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by more than $11.6 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received the William Elgin Wickenden Award for the Best Paper in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and multiple conference Best Paper awards. Ohland is Past Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and an At-large member the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002-2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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A survey was distributed to the entire undergraduate student body at a large publicuniversity on students’ experiences in Project Lead The Way, a popular middle schooland high school technology and engineering program. The survey included demographicquestions including academic major, questions on which PLTW classes the students tookin high school, and Likert-type ratings of those experiences.Of the responses to the survey (n=575), slightly fewer than half (n=252) indicated thatthey had participated in PLTW classes in high school. Approximately half of therespondents were majoring in engineering, one quarter in engineering technology, and therest were distributed among the other colleges of the university. The most popularengineering majors indicated were mechanical engineering, electrical and computerengineering, civil engineering, and aeronautics and astronautics engineering. The mostpopular engineering technology majors were mechanical engineering technology,electrical and computer engineering technology, and computer graphics technology. 89%of the respondents were Caucasian, and 75% were male.Respondents were generally positive about the program, indicating that they lookedforward to the classes, felt that the classes gave them a better appreciation of engineeringand technology, and that the classes influenced their choice of major. Differencesbetween the responses of engineering versus technology majors, those majors combinedversus all other majors, and male respondents versus female respondents were generallysmall and not statistically significant.The survey also included an open response portion, where participants were asked if therewas anything else they wanted to share about their PLTW experience. Many participantsindicated that their experience helped them in choosing a college major and preparingthem for college and helped them to learn and think like an engineer. Many participantsalso described their PLTW experience as “fun,” but although such comments are clearlypositive, they do not advance our understanding of PLTW, because students havedifferent ideas about what makes an activity fun. Further, if PLTW were “fun” at theexpense of achieving important learning objectives, it would be a disservice. Participantswere frustrated by the lack of college credit for their PLTW courses, poor teaching, andfeeling like they were better prepared for technology coursework than engineering.The popularity of Project Lead the Way and the resources committed to the programnationally make it urgent that we develop a greater understanding of who this program isreaching and what outcomes result from participation. Further, it will be important toexplore the mechanisms by which PLTW achieves those outcomes, which will help guideother pre-college engineering programs. Further research in the area is planned, and willbenefit from the findings of this earlier survey.

Salzman, N., & Mann, E. L., & Ohland, M. W. (2012, June), Measuring Undergraduate Student Perceptions of the Impact of Project Lead The Way Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21682

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