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Power Groups For Engineering Students: An In Depth Study Of Results

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.497.1 - 5.497.6



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Paper Authors

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Sally J. Steadman

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Bruce R. Dewey

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David Whitman

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1453

Power Groups for Engineering Students: An In-depth Study of Results

Sally Steadman, David L. Whitman, Bruce R. Dewey College of Engineering, University of Wyoming


In 1995, the University of Wyoming implemented clustered scheduling for new engineering students, through Power Groups. Power Group students are scheduled in common sections of Calculus, Chemistry, English, Introduction to Engineering Computing, and Orientation to Engineering. For the 50 - 70 students who have elected to participate in Power Groups each of the past five fall semesters, academic performance is increased and they choose to remain in engineering longer than the students who are non-participants. Clustered scheduling is especially successful for students in underrepresented groups; female and ethnic minority students in the Power Groups have significantly higher GPAs and a higher retention in engineering majors. Clustered scheduling is a relatively low-cost, effective strategy for increasing the retention of engineering students.


Student retention can be improved through a variety of strategies. One such strategy, the community building model,1 has produced impressive results for minority student success. This model promotes a high level of collaborative learning by clustering students in common sections of courses and offering a freshman orientation course, structured study groups, and a student study center. Given the overwhelming success that has been achieved in minority engineering programs nationwide, the University of Wyoming has implemented components of the community building model for all students.

According to Landis, the single most effective and essential component of the community building model is common course scheduling. Even though it is generally agreed that common scheduling is a key component, few institutions implement the scheduling. Common scheduling has been implemented at UW through Power Groups, clusters of approximately 20 freshmen students.2

Additional components of the community building model have also been implemented at UW. Two orientation courses, Orientation to Engineering and Introduction to Engineering Computing, expose students to computer tools to improve their academic productivity, provide academic survival skills, and introduce them to the engineering profession. Structured study groups have been used to guide students in using cooperative learning techniques. Students participating regularly in the study groups have improved exam scores and report increased self-confidence with the course material.

Another successful retention strategy at UW is a living / learning environment in the residence halls,3 based on the highly successful theme floors offered by many housing departments on

Steadman, S. J., & Dewey, B. R., & Whitman, D. (2000, June), Power Groups For Engineering Students: An In Depth Study Of Results Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8631

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