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Residentially Based Learning Communities To Enhance Engineering Retention And Academic Performance

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Recruiting, Retention & Advising

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1078.1 - 10.1078.11

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Paper Authors

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Andrew Beckett

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Thomas Marrero

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

Freshman Interest Groups: Creating Seamless Learning Communities to Enhance Student Success Andrew Beckett, Dr. Tom Marrero University of Missouri-Columbia

In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education’s A Nation at Risk began a call for reform in secondary and higher education. This report claimed that America’s education was “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”1 Several related reports followed. Namely, the Wingspread Group2 and the Kellogg Commission3 both charged higher education to redesign the undergraduate experience to better prepare America’s citizens for the 21st century. One area that continues to be of concern is the decline of science, math, and engineering (SME) students. “Undergraduate engineering enrollment declined from a high of 441,205 students in 1983 to 356,177 students in 1996, representing a 19 percent reduction.”4 Furthermore, the attrition rate for engineering students remains high. An estimated 35% of first-year engineering students change their major before the start of their sophomore year.5

While many in academia are quick to blame poor academic preparation in secondary education for the difficulties that students face in these fields, Seymour and Hewitt found that a loss of interest in the sciences and poor teaching by SME faculty were major concerns for both students who persisted in the field and those who changed academic majors6. In his meta-analysis, Daempfle came to a similar conclusion and described the classroom experiences of SME students as “chilly.”7 Seymour and Hewitt suggest that the best way to increase the retention of students in SME fields is to “improve the quality of the learning experience for all students— including those non-science majors who wish to study science and mathematics as part of their overall education.”8 They suggest that institutions focus their efforts on teaching pedagogy, student assessment, advising, and faculty engagement.

FIGs: a seamless learning environment

The concept behind Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs) is simple, yet profound. Implemented at the University of Oregon in 1982, a FIG is a small group (generally 15-20) of first-year students who share a common academic interest. As a group, they are co-enrolled in 3 common courses as well as a one-credit FIG seminar that is co-taught by an upper-class student and a faculty member with similar academic interests. On many campuses the students are also housed in the same residence hall. By living in the same dormitory, taking courses together, and regularly discussing their experiences in a structured first-year seminar, students in FIGs have multiple opportunities to make meaning of their comprehensive undergraduate experience. Their living arrangements and curricular experiences, typically viewed as disjointed collegiate experiences, become complementary forces that help them better focus on their learning and academic success.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Beckett, A., & Marrero, T. (2005, June), Residentially Based Learning Communities To Enhance Engineering Retention And Academic Performance Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015