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Patterns of Students’ Success: How Engineering Students Progress Through a Course Sequence

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Persistence and Retention

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1215.1 - 26.1215.11



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Paper Authors


Jeffrey E. Froyd Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jeffrey E. Froyd is a TEES Research Professor in the Office of Engineering Academic and Student Affairs at Texas A&M University, College Station. He received the B.S. degree in mathematics from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He was an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. At Rose-Hulman, he co-created the Integrated, First-Year Curriculum in Science, Engineering and Mathematics, which was recognized in 1997 with a Hesburgh Award Certificate of Excellence. He served as Project Director a National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Education Coalition in which six institutions systematically renewed, assessed, and institutionalized innovative undergraduate engineering curricula. He has authored over 70 papers and offered over 30 workshops on faculty development, curricular change processes, curriculum redesign, and assessment. He has served as a program co-chair for three Frontiers in Education Conferences and the general chair for the 2009 conference. Prof. Froyd is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), an ABET Program Evaluator, the Editor-in-Chief for the IEEE Transactions on Education, a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Engineering Education, and an Associate Editor for the International Journal of STEM Education.

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Kristi J. Shryock Texas A&M University

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Dr. Kristi J. Shryock is an Instructional Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Senior Director of Retention in the Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. She received her BS, MS, and PhD from the College of Engineering at Texas A&M. Kristi works to improve the undergraduate engineering experience through evaluating preparation in mathematics and physics, incorporating non-traditional teaching methods into the classroom, and engaging her students with interactive methods.

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Manisha Tripathy Texas A & M University

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Manisha Tripathy is a Masters student in Computer Science and Engineering Department at Texas A&M University.Currently she is working as a Student Worker with Engineering Academic and Student Affairs at Texas A&M University.She did her B Tech in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from KIIT University,India . Prior to joining as a master's student,she worked as an Assistant System Analyst at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.Her work primarily included java development and application management activities.
Her research interests include data analysis,information retrieval and application software development.

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Arun R Srinivasa Texas A&M University

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Dr Arun Srinivasa is the Holdredge/Paul Professor and associate department head of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University and has been with TAMU since 1997. Prior to that he was a faclty at University of Pittsburgh. He recieved his undergraduate in mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India in 1986 and subsequently his PhD from University of California, Berkeley. He research interests include continuum mechanics and thermodynamics, simulations of materials processing, and smart materials modeling and design. He teaching interests include the use of technology for education, especially in the area of engineering mechanics and in effective teaching methodologies and their impact on student progress in mechanical engineering.

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Rebecca C Simon Texas A&M University

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Rebecca Simon is a Program Specialist for Undergraduate Retention in the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. She develops and coordinates programs to promote student success and retention. Simon completed a B.S. in Agricultural Leadership and Development from Texas A&M in 2008 and a graduate certificate in Academic Advising from Sam Houston State University in 2012.

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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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