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Retention Through A Coordinated Spiral Curriculum

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Recruitment and Retention

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.988.1 - 8.988.10

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Paper Authors

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Robert Herrick

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J. Michael Jacob

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Jeffrey Richardson

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

Session 3448

Retention Through a Coordinated Spiral Curriculum

Robert J. Herrick, James Michael Jacob, Jeffrey J. Richardson

Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Department Purdue University


The Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) Program of Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana implemented significant curriculum change in the fall of 1996. The focus of the change was to produce a relevant coordinated curriculum to optimize the students’ learning process and provide a curriculum path that retained qualified students rather than filtering them out. This paper describes the characteristics of the innovations introduced, the successful retention outcomes achieved as a result of these changes, and a national textbook series that was generated from this spiral curriculum.


The faculty of the EET Program, after just completing a highly successful national accreditation evaluation in 1992, decided to review and revise as needed their curriculum. Rather than resting on their laurels of their recent accreditation success, the faculty spent an intense two years developing a new curriculum. The challenge was to re-think and re-design the entire curriculum, tabla rosa. The fundamental goal was to create a curriculum for optimum learning of relevant curriculum content without being shackled to old traditional pedagogy and methodologies that were aimed more at delivery than they were at learning. Another overarching goal was to create a coordinated curriculum that facilitated the success of our students rather impede their progress with built-in snares that filtered out qualified students. After two years of meetings, seminars, and workshops, forty faculty came to 93% consensus of a new curriculum that was focused on a coordinated curriculum, an integrated analog electronics course series utilizing helical or spiral education, innovative pedagogy to stimulate and excite the learner, and teaching techniques to engage the learner as an active learner. Helical or spiral education is an educational technique or curriculum structure that introduces something at a very elementary level but then continues to spiral back to that topic teaching it (and thus learning) at deeper levels of understanding with each cycle. Jerome Bruner, a leading national educational psychologist, made a strong case for spiral curriculum and education1, 2. “The Process of Education (1960) was a landmark text. It had a direct impact on policy formation in the United States and influenced the thinking and orientation of a wide group of teachers and scholars. Its view of children as active problem-solvers who are ready to explore ‘difficult’ subjects while being out of step with the dominant view in education at that time, struck a chord...”.3 “Jerome Bruner is not merely one of the foremost educational thinkers of the era; he is also an inspired learner and teacher. … To those who know him, Bruner remains the Compleat Educator in the flesh…”.4 The spiral curriculum approach is very effective

“Proceedings of the 2003American Society for Engineering Education annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Herrick, R., & Jacob, J. M., & Richardson, J. (2003, June), Retention Through A Coordinated Spiral Curriculum Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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