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The Teacher Effect: Explaining Retention Gains in First-year Engineering Projects Courses

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

First-year Programs Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1347.1 - 25.1347.9



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Paper Authors


Daniel Knight University of Colorado, Boulder

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Daniel W. Knight is the Engineering Assessment Specialist at the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program (ITLL) and the Broadening Opportunity through Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) Center in CU’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. He holds a B.A. in psychology from the Louisiana State University, and an M.S. degree in industrial/organizational psychology and a Ph.D. degree in counseling psychology, both from the University of Tennessee. Knight’s research interests are in the areas of retention, program evaluation, and teamwork practices in engineering education. His current duties include assessment, evaluation, and research for the ITL Program’s and BOLD Center’s hands-on initiatives.

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Beverly Louie University of Colorado, Boulder

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Beverly Louie is the Director for teaching and learning initiatives in the Broadening Opportunities through Leadership and Diversity (BOLD) Center in CU’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemical engineering from CU, and a D.Phil. in mechanical engineering from the University of Oxford, England. Louie’s research interests are in the areas of engineering
student retention and performance, teaching effectiveness, and collaborative learning.

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Jordan Michelle Hornback University of Colorado at Boulder

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Jordan M. Hornback is a Discovery Learning Apprentice at CU's College of Engineering and Applied Science. She is currently a junior studying architectural engineering at CU with a focus in lighting, and is traveling to Hong Kong this summer to intern with Light Directions. Her research interest is in the area of female retention for undergraduate engineering women. Her current duties include analyzing data and leading focus groups.

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The Teacher Effect: Explaining Retention Gains in First-Year Engineering Projects CoursesFirst-Year Engineering Projects Courses (FYEP) courses have been found to produce significantretention gains. 1 Investigation is on-going into the reasons driving theses retention gains.Possible reasons include the development of self-efficacy, involvement in learning communities,the bolstering of professional identity, project-based learning and the unique set of skillspossessed by the teacher of the FYEP course. The present study investigates the last of thesereasons, the impact of the FYEP teacher on the course experiences that lead to retention.The FYEP course is composed of small sections with a broad range of topics including assistivetechnology, scientific displays, re-engineering, sustainable design, and educational toys. Theclass meets for five hours per week with one hour of lecture and four hours of lab. Students areorganized into teams and must meet important milestones culminating in an end-of-semesterdesign competition. To implement this course structure, the FYEP teacher has to have a uniqueset of skills to facilitate the hands-on, team-based design project. The teacher must frame thecourse elements in such a way as to enable to complete the design and building of a complexprojects within a 15 week format. In addition, the teacher has to build interest in the projecttopics, be available to support the design teams at critical stages of the project while stillchallenging them to work independently as self-managing work teams while developingtechnical expertise. 2For this study, the method includes three sets of data. The first is from the university FacultyCourse Questionnaire (FCQ) which is similar to a method of surveying students to evaluateclasses at many universities. The second data set is provided is institutional research data on theretention of students within the college of engineering at a western flagship state university. Thethird dataset is a qualitative focus group procedure performed with the students in the course atthe end of the semester. This dataset provides more in-depth data on the perceived performanceof teachers than can be obtained from the quantitative survey feedback. Data were collectedacross a six year period. FCQ ratings were collected on student interest, teacher availability,workload, and intellectual challenge as well as overall instructor and course ratings. Theseresults were compared with retention rates by FYEP course sections and with other classestaught with FYEP teachers, and with FCQ results from across the college of engineering.Results were substantiated by the qualitative feedback from course focus groups. Results will bediscussed in the paper.References1 N. L. Fortenberry et al. “Engineering Education Research Aids Instruction,” Science Vol. 317,August 2007.2 L. M. Aleamoni. “Student Rating Myths Versus Research Facts from 1924 to 1998,” Journal ofPersonnel Evaluation in Education 13:2 153-166, (1999).

Knight, D., & Louie, B., & Hornback, J. M. (2012, June), The Teacher Effect: Explaining Retention Gains in First-year Engineering Projects Courses Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22104

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