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Retention Of Freshman Agricultural Engineering Students Through An Experiencial Lab Course

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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

5.530.1 - 5.530.13



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Steven Mickelson

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Session 2608

Retention of Freshman Agricultural Engineering Students Through an Experiential Lab Course

Steven K. Mickelson Iowa State University


Retention of freshman agricultural engineering (AE) students has been a struggle at Iowa State University (ISU) in past years. This has been attributed to the lack of interaction of the freshmen students with faculty, upperclassmen in AE, and meaningful exposure to the field of AE during their first two semesters. A laboratory-based, team orientated, and hands-on course was developed to help address this problem. Students took this course during their second semester at ISU. Using a pre- and post- semester questionnaire assessment tool, the success of the course was evaluated. Results showed that the students attitude toward the department improved significantly during the semester, that meaningful relationships with faculty and upperclassman in the department increased, and that they were still confident in the major they had chosen. Mentoring by upperclassmen was also found to be a very positive experience for the freshmen. The mentors also found the experience very valuable. An additional benefit was that students became more comfortable in writing technical lab reports. Faculty support was found to be excellent.

I. Introduction

Like most agricultural and/or biosystems engineering departments around the country, the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) at Iowa State University has been looking for better ways to increase the retention of the students that we work so hard to recruit. Although our number of incoming freshmen over the past several years has ranged 30 to 40, our retention of these students has sometimes as low as 50% within the first two years. Part of the problem has been the lack of interaction between the faculty and upperclassmen with our freshmen agricultural engineering (AE) students within the first year. Pascarella (1980) has found that the quantity and quality of contact with faculty is strongly associated with student retention1. Interaction with peers provides support, opportunities, and models for pro-social behavior2. Students are also more likely to stay in college if they are satisfied with their learning experiences3. The main contact with the freshmen with faculty was through two R-credit courses that were offered the first and second semester of their freshman year. Each of these courses met for one hour a week and were mainly lecture format with little or no interaction with our AE students. To help combat this problem, the curriculum committee decided to develop a 1-credit interactive, hands-on agricultural engineering laboratory course to replace the R credit seminar course offered in the second semester of the freshman year. The course title changed from AE 110-Seminar to AE 110-Experiencing Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. The original AE 110 course exposed the freshman to the various options within the AE curriculum through

Mickelson, S. (2000, June), Retention Of Freshman Agricultural Engineering Students Through An Experiencial Lab Course Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8669

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