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Quantitative Analysis Of First Year Experience Mechanical Engineering Learning Community

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Trends in Mechanical Engineering I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1001.1 - 14.1001.9



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Paper Authors


Freddie Davis West Texas A&M University

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Dr. Freddie Davis is the Department Head for Engineering and Computer Science and is also an associate professor of engineering at WTAMU.

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Emily Hunt West Texas A&M University

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Dr. Emily Hunt is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at WTAMU. Her research inerterests include energetic materials science and undergraduate engineering education.

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Kendra Campbell West Texas A&M University

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Kendra Campbell is the Director of First Year Experience at WTAMU. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Higher Education at Texas Tech University.

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

Quantitative Analysis of First-Year Experience Mechanical Engineering Learning Community


West Texas A&M University has developed a "first-year experience" program that provides freshmen a supportive environment for learning and growth, fostering a sense of community among students. This learning community is essentially a cohort system students are grouped and enrolled in the same class sections for selected courses. Throughout the semester there are facilitated study groups, tutoring, academic support services and social events scheduled for the learning community students. For the past two academic years, an external evaluation has been conducted to determine the effectiveness of this program. The evaluation consists of student surveys, focus groups, and individual student and instructor interviews. This evaluation provides both qualitative and quantitative analysis of the impact of the learning community on undergraduate students. Quantitative results from the evaluation show that all students are benefiting (i.e. retention rate, GPA, etc.) from participation in the first-year experience program, regardless of major. Interestingly, qualitative results show students are identifying the benefits of the first-year program on their academic success except for those enrolled in the engineering program. Student interviews with engineering students reflect a perceived negative impact on the academic experience of these students because of their involvement in the learning communities. However, the numbers show that the opposite is true.


A learning community is defined as “a variety of curricular approaches that intentionally link or cluster two or more courses, often around an interdisciplinary theme or problem, and enroll a common cohort of students.”1 Historical benefits of learning communities are both qualitative and quantitative and include: increasing study skills, promoting connections with faculty, creating a sense of belonging to the university, increasing grade point averages, and improving retention.2-11

A study conducted by Swing12 utilizing the First-Year Initiative Benchmarking Survey found that many qualitative improvements were made for participating students. For example, there was a 16% increase in peer-to-peer connections. “The Connections with Peers Factor is based on three response items about the degree to which the course improved the student’s (a) efforts to get to know students in classes, (b) ability to meet new people with common interests, and (c) ability to establish close friendships with peers”.12 Additionally, because of the shared courses, students felt more comfortable engaging in friendships with classmates. By establishing friendships, students “reported a 6% higher mean score on overall satisfaction with the college they are attending.”12

A study conducted at Georgia State University in 200613 sought quantitative evidence regarding the efficacy or inefficacy of learning communities. The researchers found that “belonging to a freshman learning community increases a student’s GPA from about three-quarters to one full letter grade. . .”13 For academic persistence, “the impact of a freshman learning community on

Davis, F., & Hunt, E., & Campbell, K. (2009, June), Quantitative Analysis Of First Year Experience Mechanical Engineering Learning Community Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4738

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