June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Electrical and Computer
15.1148.1 - 15.1148.11
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
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