Asee peer logo

The Effect of Required Introduction to Engineering Courses on Retention and Major Selection

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

FPD 2: Retention

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1192.1 - 23.1192.9

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Marisa K. Orr Louisiana Tech University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Louisiana Tech University. She completed her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, as well as a Certificate of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity and diversity, and academic policy.

visit author page


Catherine E. Brawner Research Triangle Educational Consultants

visit author page

Catherine E. Brawner is President of Research Triangle Educational Consultants. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Research and Policy Analysis from NC State University in 1996. She also has an MBA from Indiana University (Bloomington) and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University. She specializes in evaluation and research in engineering education, computer science education, teacher education, and technology education. Dr. Brawner is a founding member and former treasurer of Research Triangle Park Evaluators, an American Evaluation Association affiliate organization and is a member of the American Educational Research Association and American Evaluation Association, in addition to ASEE. Dr. Brawner is also an Extension Services Consultant for the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) and, in that role, advises computer science departments on diversifying their undergraduate student population. She currently serves as the principal evaluator for the Teachers Attracting Girls to Computer Science project which aims to increase and diversify the student population studying computer science in high school. Dr. Brawner previously served as principal evaluator of the NSF-sponsored SUCCEED Coalition. She remains an active researcher with MIDFIELD, studying gender issues, transfers, and matriculation models in engineering.

visit author page


Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Matthew W. Ohland is Professor of engineering education at Purdue University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by more than $12.4 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation and his team received the William Elgin Wickenden Award for the Best Paper in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and 2011. Ohland is Past Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods division and a member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002-2006 President of Tau Beta Pi.

visit author page

author page

Richard A. Layton Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Download Paper |


The Effect of Required Introduction to Engineering Courses on Major SelectionStudents who matriculated in undergraduate engineering programs are studied to determine theeffects of a required introduction to engineering course on major selection. The hypothesis is thatrequiring such a course affects the way the students sort into majors, particularly students whochoose not to declare their major at matriculation. This study integrates quantitative findingsfrom MIDFIELD universities (Multiple-Institution Database for Investigating EngineeringLongitudinal Development and qualitative findings from interviews at five institutions.Preliminary Qualitative Findings: For many students who were sure of their major when theyentered their institution (whether they were allowed to declare it or not), the introduction toengineering course confirmed to them that they had made the right decision. For those who werenot sure about the major they wanted, the first year experience, including the introduction toengineering classes and discussions with faculty and TAs, allowed them the opportunity toresearch the different engineering majors and determine which ones fit best with their personaland career goals. Other influencers on students’ major selection were high school experiencesand family members who were engineers.Preliminary Quantitative Findings: We compared the majors at matriculation and at the fourthterm of students who were required to take an introduction to engineering course and those whowere not. Of students who start in a discipline, those who are not required to take a surveycourse are more likely to be in the same discipline in term 4 (not required = 73%, required =64%). Students who are undecided to begin with seem to benefit from the course in that thosewho are required to take an introductory course are less likely to leave the institution (required =9%, not required = 12%). Noting that slightly more than 12% of the “required” and “notrequired” group leaves the institution before the fourth term, the undecided students who take arequired course show a different behavior from other students. The forthcoming paper will alsoexamine how these changes affect enrollments in specific majors. Status at fourth term Required Non- Intro In a Undesignated engineering Left the Course? N discipline Engineering Major universityStudentsdeclaring a No 37185 73% ~0% 15% 12%major atmatriculation Yes 17367 64% 9% 14% 13%Studentschoosing No 8267 54% 16% 17% 12%engineeringundesignated Yes 4248 46% 29% 15% 9%*rows may not add to 100% due to rounding

Orr, M. K., & Brawner, C. E., & Ohland, M. W., & Layton, R. A. (2013, June), The Effect of Required Introduction to Engineering Courses on Retention and Major Selection Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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: © 2013 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