June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Cooperative & Experiential Education
13.993.1 - 13.993.13
Preliminary Findings from a Quantitative Study: What are Students Learning During Cooperative Education Experiences? Abstract
Since most of our engineering students follow careers in industry, of particular importance is how cooperative experiences help to make better engineers. Although cooperative experiences are well-known to have many benefits to students and employers as well as have great potential for bringing active learning to the undergraduate level, there is limited empirical evidence of students’ learning outcomes as a result of these experiences. Preliminary findings from a validated survey instrument, National Engineering Students’ Learning Outcomes Survey (NESLOS), derived from ABET criteria, are presented. Key findings of what students learned and valued, insight into variations across female and male students, and student career path goals are presented. These findings can aid engineering departments, cooperative education professionals, career service offices at institutions, and industry representatives to improve co-op experiences and assessment efforts.
Undergraduate engineering students who participate in cooperative (co-op) experiences can benefit greatly from their industrial work experience. Co-ops not only provide a meaningful experience for engineering students, but also create an opportunity for them to begin the process of workplace adaptation. Participation in co-op experiences also deepens a student’s understanding of the profession and promotes the communication and teamwork needed to solve complex problems. Other well-known benefits of co-op students include: (a) gaining real-world experience in an engineering professional environment, (b) having the opportunity to apply skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world problems, (c) working with state-of-the-art processes, equipment, and tools, (d) learning how to work in teams in a professional atmosphere and adapt to different employment situations, (e) developing self-confidence and a positive attitude about future career options, and (f) improving their opportunities for post-graduation jobs. The success that cooperative education has enjoyed over many years indicates that employers can also benefit from the arrangement by hiring high-performance individuals.
Although some studies have looked into the overall positive impact (such as earnings and grade point average) of co-op experiences 1-2, the bodies-of-knowledge and learning outcomes comprising the countless ways in which students benefit from being involved in cooperative education have been insufficient and understudied. Another set of problems involves perceptions of the field and its marginalization, because of its "vocational" association, portraying co-op experiences as not always academically legitimate. Rather, it is often viewed as taking time away from the classroom 3. So, despite the current emphasis on contextual learning, co-op experiences are not always recognized as a vehicle for learning.
Since engineering disciplines are so closely aligned with industry as a customer for our graduates, engineering educators are ideally positioned to lead contributions to the assessment of cooperative education literature. ABET accreditation criteria provide the link between industry needs, learning outcomes, and legitimate academic faculty scholarship 4-5. It is time for
Pierrakos, O., & Borrego, M., & Lo, J. (2008, June), Preliminary Findings From A Quantitative Study: What Are Students Learning During Cooperative Education Experiences? Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3517
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