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Teamwork Is Academic: The Gateway Approach To Teaching Engineering Freshmen

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Recruiting, Retention & Advising

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1241.1 - 10.1241.14



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Paper Authors

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Richard Whalen

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Susan Freeman

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Beverly Jaeger

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Bala Maheswaran

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

Teamwork is Academic: The Gateway Approach to Teaching Engineering Freshmen

Richard Whalen, Susan F. Freeman, Beverly K. Jaeger and Bala Maheswaran

College of Engineering, Northeastern University

Abstract In 1993, the freshman-to-sophomore retention rate for students remaining in the College of Engineering program at Northeastern University (NU) was at 68%. Freshmen from each of the engineering disciplines at NU have been required to take a series of core courses taught by the Physics, Math, and Chemistry departments as well as a sequence of introductory courses taught by various engineering professors which were chosen from each department. It was felt that success in these introductory engineering courses, “Engineering Design”, “Problem Solving and Computation” and “Problem Solving with Software Applications” was paramount in achieving improved retention rates. However, a system was not in place to ensure consistency and improve the quality of teaching. Each term, professors from various departments were “thrown in” to cover multiple sections of these courses without much incentive, guidance, or coordination. As a result, the turnover rate was extremely high for both faculty and students. Something needed to be done in order to improve the first-year engineering experience and increase motivation of both the students and faculty to continue in the program. With the vision and support of the undergraduate Dean at NU, the College of Engineering has since adopted and developed a faculty team (Gateway) approach to teaching the core first-year engineering courses. Consequently, measurable improvements have resulted in these freshman engineering courses. The College of Engineering has steadily increased retention rates over the past decade by successful implementation of new ideas brought forth by the experiences and energies of the dedicated Gateway faculty team. The freshman-to-sophomore retention rate for students remaining in the College of Engineering now stands at 81% for a class size of 432 students as measured in 2003. This is a significant gain of thirteen percentage points over the last ten years, confirming that the team approach works. This paper will set out the details and insights for administering and teaching multiple course sections efficiently and effectively with the Gateway approach.


Webster’s dictionary defines a team as “a number of persons associated together in work or activity; functioning as a collaborative unit”. Individual team members are selected because of a unique skill set that when brought to the table will complement the other members. Engineering educators strive to promote teamwork to our students, outlining the benefits as well as possible

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Whalen, R., & Freeman, S., & Jaeger, B., & Maheswaran, B. (2005, June), Teamwork Is Academic: The Gateway Approach To Teaching Engineering Freshmen Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14234

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