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Supplemental Instruction: Foundation Tutorials For Second Year Electrical Engineering Students

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Pedagogy and Assessment in ECE II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1148.1 - 15.1148.11



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Paper Authors

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Gerard Rowe University of Auckland

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Chris Smaill University of Auckland


Lawrence Carter University of Auckland

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Lawrence Carter was born and educated in the United Kingdom, and has lectured in electronics and telecommunications in the UK, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Auckland, where his research interests include sensing technology for demining, and engineering education. In 2000 he was a Visiting Scientist at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Ispra, Italy.

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Elizabeth Godfrey University of Technology Sydney

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Dr Elizabeth Godfrey is currently working as Senior Research Fellow on an Australian Learning and Teaching Council project aimed at understanding and reducing attrition in engineering education. She is the current Past President of the Australasian Association of Engineering Education. Her recent experience has included a 9 year term as the Associate Dean Undergraduate at the School of Engineering at the University of Auckland

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Bernard Guillemin The University of Auckland

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Bernard Guillemin is a Senior Lecturer and currently Deputy Head (Academic) in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at The University of Auckland. His research interests include speech analysis, synthesis and recognition as well as speaker recognition and verification in the forensic arena. He has taught at many levels in the Department over many years and has made particular contributions in the teaching of engineering design to students in the 3rd year of their four-year engineering programme. He has received a number of Faculty teaching awards during this time. In his role as Deputy Head, issues of student achievement and engagement have become of particular concern and he has played a major role in formulating strategies for addressing these.

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Mark Andrews University of Auckland

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Mark Andrews obtained the degrees of BE and PhD from the University of Auckland in 1985 and 1990 respectively. In 1988 he joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and currently holds the position of Senior Lecturer. His research broadly encompasses signal processing but with special interests in image processing, computer vision and hyperspectral techniques for image analysis. He has taught a wide range of electrical engineering courses and is particularly interested in the problem of presentation clarity when dealing with conceptually difficult topics. He is a regular recipient of teaching awards from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Auckland.

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Waleed Abdulla University of Auckland

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

Supplemental Instruction: Foundation Tutorials for Second-year Electrical- engineering Students

Abstract: Students at risk of failing core second-year electrical-engineering courses are identified by diagnostic testing and early course-work results. At-risk students are provided with supplemental instruction via special “Foundation Tutorials”, in which both learning and technical issues are addressed. Two years of results and analysis for circuit theory, electronics and electromagnetics courses are presented. A significant improvement is found in the success rate of participating students.

Introduction As developers of course-concept inventories and researchers of threshold concepts will attest, a pass in a particular first-year course, or indeed the entire first year of study, is no guarantee that the student has mastered all of the relevant technical material or achieved a sufficient level of academic independence. On the contrary, the student may still have significant conceptual misunderstandings or learning difficulties. If these remain undetected and uncorrected, the future academic success of that student is threatened. For some years, considerable engineering-education research effort has been directed internationally toward improving student success in first-year programmes by evaluating strategies which have ranged from curriculum redesign to interventions aimed at increasing academic and social integration1-3. Investigations of students’ academic preparedness4-7, student study practices8 and engagement with their own learning have been useful in identifying students at risk of failure. The provision of supplemental instruction for at-risk students9 has been found to be effective in improving the grades of such students. While this remains a very active research area, similar attention is now starting to be focussed on the second and subsequent years when students encounter core discipline-specific courses. This paper reports an intervention aimed at improving student success in three key second- year electrical-engineering courses covering, respectively, the topics of circuit theory, electronics and electromagnetics. These papers can be considered to contain the theoretical underpinnings for a degree program in Electrical Engineering, and at this institution they have proved for many years to be “gate-keeper” courses in terms of progression through the degree. For the last two years, at-risk students have been identified, principally, by a combination of diagnostic testing and early coursework results. These students have then been invited to join a special, weekly, “Foundation Tutorial” in which both technical and learning obstacles are addressed. Two years of data are presented which suggest that such an intervention does produce a significant improvement in the success of participating students.

Methodology At-risk students were identified by a combination of diagnostic testing and analysis of early course-work results. Typically a (not-for-credit) diagnostic test would be administered without warning in the second lecture of the course. Such a test would usually be based on key concepts, and use the same principles as underpin most concept inventories10. Students with very low marks (thus identified as being at risk of failure) were then contacted by email,

Rowe, G., & Smaill, C., & Carter, L., & Godfrey, E., & Guillemin, B., & Andrews, M., & Abdulla, W. (2010, June), Supplemental Instruction: Foundation Tutorials For Second Year Electrical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16277

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: © 2010 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