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Pilot: “Success is a State Function”—Ways of Viewing Student Success

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Teaching Professional Skills in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Robert Wayne Gammon-Pitman Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Robert Gammon-Pitman: PhD candidate in STEM education with a focus in engineering education. His research focuses on student success and how the meaning of success changes as the students matriculate and enter the profession.

Dr. Lin Ding: Associate Professor in Department of Teaching & Learning. Dr. Ding has extensive experience in discipline-based physics education research, including students' conceptual learning, problem solving and scientific reasoning, curriculum development and assessment design.

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Lin Ding Ohio State University

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Lin Ding, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University. Dr. Ding’s scholarly interests lie in discipline-based STEM education research. His work includes theoretical and empirical investigations of student content learning, problem solving, reasoning skills, and epistemological development. Dr. Ding specializes in research-based assessment development and focuses primarily on the quantitative research paradigm. He has published numerous high-impact journal articles, book chapters, and research proceedings papers. In addition, Dr. Ding has been leading multiple federal and state projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Ohio Department of Education. Also, he frequently serves as an invited editorial board member, referee or panelist for various international journals, funding agencies, and professional associations.

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Introduction: Most literature in engineering education focuses on the problems or barriers to teaching undergraduate engineering students [1]. In professional settings, it has been implied being successful is having the ability to get the job done [2]. If the purpose of education is to prepare students to be successful in school and beyond, then we must start by understanding the stories of how students succeed in school.

Background: In this paper, different definitions of student success in school are described. Then these definitions are contrasted with the students’ experiences. While the common student success outcome is graduating with a degree, this paper focuses on student experiences of success. Upper-class undergraduate chemical engineering courses, technical electives, were targeted. These courses were targeted because students taking these courses are unlikely to switch majors. Additionally, it was presumed that these students in these classes have had a high-point or successful instance while studying chemical engineering.

Methods: Multiple methods were used to collect data. Demographic information, the grit-S, and engineering identity instruments were collected for chemical engineering students at a research institution via Qualtrics. Two students consented to participate in the semi-structured interviews. This pilot contrasts Kate and Dan’s quantitative measures of success (GPA, grit, engineering identity) with their qualitative experiences from the interview. Additionally, Kate and Dan’s engineering identity scores were compared to ‘other’ senior engineering students’ scores to describe the different ways of defining success.

Results: When asked about success in the classroom, Kate responds, “success is a state function.” A state function means the path taken from A to B isn’t dependent on the route taken. “Grades are not a reflection of success in the classroom… I think someone who goes to the professor for help and is able to admit they need help from the professor or classmates… Success in the classroom is about is making a conscious effort.”

Conclusion: Kate’s descriptions highlight the importance of “showing up” to the classroom and recognizes they need help. Kate labels success in engineering courses as being more than grades and underscores the need for collaboration to succeed. Furthermore, her peers/cohort and college mentors were pivotal in thriving. “To learn the material meant you being collaborative and able to interact with your professors… I think [collaboration] is more reflective of success and of course getting an A. And That’s coming from someone who gets A’s in courses.”

Gammon-Pitman, R. W., & Ding, L. (2021, July), Pilot: “Success is a State Function”—Ways of Viewing Student Success Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37579

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