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Students Against the Odds: First-year Engineering Students' Strategies for Improving Academic Achievement

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Student Success II: Self-Regulatory, Metacognitive, and Professional Skills

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Sergio Celis Universidad de Chile

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Sergio Celis is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering and Sciences at the Universidad de Chile. He conducts research on higher education, with a focus on teaching and learning in STEM fields. His primary research interest is in how multiple forces, internal and external to the institution, influence what and how we teach in colleges and universities. His doctoral thesis investigated how social and intellectual movements influenced the emergence of entrepreneurship education in engineering. Sergio received his professional degree in industrial engineering at the University of Chile and his Ph.D. in higher education at the University of Michigan.

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Camila Aguirre Universidad de Chile

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Camila Aguirre is finishing her professional degree in industrial engineering at the Universidad de Chile. She obtained a bachelor degree on engineering sciences at the same university. Among her interests are public policy and STEM education.

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This research paper utilizes qualitative methods that connect with a learning analytics’ application in order to understand successful learning strategies of first-year students in risk of academic dismissal in a selective engineering school. The Engineering School developed a model that predicts students consecutive failing of at least one first semester course. This is important because failing a course twice results in School’s dismissal. The first application of the model, which did not considered intervention at all, worked remarkably well since it had a recall of 86%, having almost no cases of false negative (error type II). However, there was a significant number of students that were false positive (error type I). These students were individuals with a high probability of failing at least one course twice but ended up passing in the second semester all the courses that they failed in the first semester. In this study, we sought to learn more about “false positive” students and their strategies for achieving academic success. We conducted semi-structured interviews with “false positive” students. These interviews were enhanced with a journey-map exercise (Meyer & Marx, 2014) about the students’ experiences in first year. The interviews were analyzed with a semi-inductive process, which considered the substantive knowledge about students’ academic performance in first-year engineering, including the association between personal and institutional factors. In total, we conducted 10 interviews. As preliminary results, we identifying the following themes: the positive role of family support, the importance of “being” in the School (i.e., assistance to classes, participation in extracurricular activities, and using study rooms), and the absence of a sense of achievement.

Celis, S., & Aguirre, C. (2016, June), Students Against the Odds: First-year Engineering Students' Strategies for Improving Academic Achievement Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25936

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