June 12, 2005
June 12, 2005
June 15, 2005
10.1165.1 - 10.1165.11
Students Are Leaving Engineering Curriculums; Can Our Educational Approach Stop This? Tonya Emerson, Michael Ward
College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management California State University, Chico
Abstract Retention rates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) majors have been a serious concern nationwide for many years. The Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange’s 2002-2003 STEM Retention Report provides sobering data on our national retention rates. The report shows that retention rates at Carnegie-Masters type institutions for incoming first-year students in STEM majors that continue and graduate in a STEM discipline within six years are less than 28% nationwide. At California State University, Chico, the numbers are less than 23%. These numbers are not consistent with those seen when looking at all disciplines. The same Consortium report found that nationally, retention rates for all majors at Carnegie- Masters schools hovers near 40%, while at CSU, Chico the retention rate for all majors averages 47%.
Why do STEM disciplines lose such a high percentage of students? In the landmark study by Seymour and Hewitt, and reported in their book Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences, many of the common myths about retention were dispelled. Students are not leaving due to a lack of skill or subject matter knowledge. The most common factor influencing their decision to leave was a loss of interest in the subject matter. In addition, poor quality teaching and advising were serious concerns for all students. This data clearly indicates that something in our standard approach to teaching is not working.
The question becomes, what can we do better? This paper reviews current programs nationwide that are targeted at improving student involvement and retention. Changes made in both teaching methodology and curriculum are identified and the resulting effects of these changes are discussed. The intent of this paper is to provide a resource for other engineering educators on effective educational approaches to improve retention.
Introduction The Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange’s 2002-2003 STEM Retention Report shows that, on average, only 64.5% of incoming, first-year, STEM students at Carnegie-Masters type institutions continue to a second year of study in STEM majors. By the end of their second year, only 46% are still enrolled in STEM disciplines. Within 6 years, only 28% of those first- year students will have graduated with a STEM degree. At California State University, Chico, the retention rate drops an additional 5% to only 23% percent of incoming students in STEM disciplines graduating within six years of entering the university. 
“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition” Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education
Ward, M., & Emerson, T. (2005, June), Students Are Leaving Engineering Curriculums; Can Our Educational Approach Stop This? Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. https://peer.asee.org/15092
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