June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Educational Research and Methods
26.1215.1 - 26.1215.11
Patterns of Students’ Success: How EngineeringStudents Progress through a Course SequenceThe importance of increasing the number and diversity of graduates with undergraduatedegrees in engineering has been highlighted in several national reports. Increasing the retentionof students is one approach to addressing this challenge because nationally, less than half ofthe students entering engineering actually graduate with an engineering degree. Studies relatedto engineering student retention tend to focus on who leaves engineering after periods of time,(e.g., one year, two years, etc.), and why they leave. A number of retention studies have madeimportant contributions to help frame challenges related to ethnic/racial or gender diversities,such as why certain groups leave at higher rates than others. Additional studies have taken amore academic approach and emphasized the importance of student success in a first coursecompleted by the student, such as a mathematics course, on the likelihood that they will remainin engineering. Retention studies, however, have provided less information patterns of studentperformance in courses in the engineering curricula beyond success in that first course and howthese patterns might be used to improve retention in engineering.Another way of envisioning academic trends related to student retention is to use data instudent information databases to envision who is succeeding in engineering by evaluatingcommon patterns of student success in threads within engineering curricula. Engineeringcurricula are complex with multiple required courses, many of which have one or moreprerequisites. In the literature on student retention, the authors have not found contributionscharting patterns of student success in engineering curricula. Further, the authors have not yetfound ways to visualize student progress through engineering curricula given the multiplerequired courses and the multiple ways of satisfying these requirements (e.g., advanceplacement, transfer courses, transfer students, course substitutions, etc.). However, manyengineering curricula have characteristics that distinguish them from most college and universitycurricula. Key examples include multiple sequences of courses in which one course is aprerequisite for the next, which is a prerequisite for the follow-on course, and so forth. The mostcommon example of this type of a sequence is the mathematics sequence. Engineeringcurricula commonly have mathematics sequences similar to the following: Calculus I, CalculusII, Multi-variable Calculus, and Differential Equations. Another sequence of courses can befound in mechanics: Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Solid Mechanics, and CapstoneDesign. In many mechanics curricula, engineering programs, in order to satisfy credit-hourconstraints, have compressed these five courses into four or fewer courses. Other coursesequences include materials and thermo/fluids, for example. Success in each course sequencein a student’s program study of engineering is a prerequisite for student success in engineering;that is, if they do not succeed in the course sequence, they do not succeed in their program ofstudy. Studies of student progress through course sequences can provide different perspectivesand findings on student success in engineering.At a large public university, an approach has been developed to extract data from aninstitution's student information system and transform the data into patterns of student progressin course sequences, which may identify intervention opportunities to increase likelihood ofstudent success in engineering. In particular, finding ways to display the information in effectivegraphical visualizations may reveal specific points in engineering curricula for interventions. Theauthors have developed a specific visualization that has proven effective at communicationpatterns of student progress through a course sequence. The visualization is generated fromanalyses of academic records of thousands of engineering students and has revealedinteresting findings about student progress through several course sequences and theirrelationships to retention. The paper describes the approach used in this study and presentsresults from analyzing student progress through course sequences in engineering curricula,including the mathematics sequence and the mechanics sequence. Some of the discoveriesreinforce prior findings about the importance of success in the first mathematics course. Otherfindings show interesting patterns about where students leave a course sequence and howgrades received throughout the sequence affects whether a student is retained in engineering.The visualization approach may provide tools that other engineering programs would find helpfulin analyzing their patterns of student progress.
Froyd, J. E., & Shryock, K. J., & Tripathy, M., & Srinivasa, A. R., & Simon, R. C. (2015, June), Patterns of Students’ Success: How Engineering Students Progress Through a Course Sequence Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24552
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