July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Minorities in Engineering
RedShirting, the practice of adding a performance enhancing first year for underrepresented students in engineering programs, has created an alternative pathway to and through engineering for historically marginalized or minoritized students. While previous studies have focused primarily on recruitment and retention strategies in the first year, a consortium of universities hosting RedShirting programs has collected information on student experiences beyond the first year. The first year of RedShirt programs emphasizes building a strong peer community that can support academic success, a community fostered through “high-touch” participation in required summer bridge experiences, strong advising, first-year courses and study sessions. These lead to a unified experience for most RedShirt students after one year - however, the more relaxed or removed requirements in the sophomore and junior years result in more individualized and less structured approaches to being an engineering student. This paper presents research results that highlight the key themes evident in students’ transitions past the first year, into the middle years of undergraduate engineering, and the effects of RedShirt program structures on success beyond the first year.
This study examines the overall research question: How do the curricular, advising, and cohort-building elements of the RedShirt program impact the students’ experiences in the sophomore or junior year at their university and in engineering? RedShirt students in the sophomore and junior years responded to a semi-structured list of questions through focus group participation, with some individual follow-up interviews. Sophomores were the focus in academic year 2018-2019, while primarily juniors participated in 2019-2020. Themes from data analysis of the qualitative responses were developed. The work draws from a larger investigation conducted under an NSF S-STEM award.
The thematic findings from sophomores and juniors include: academic strategies for responding to more challenging classes; adjusting to a new peer group rather than continued reliance on their RedShirt cohort; developing identity as a minority student learning with mostly majority engineering students; effects of advising interactions with RedShirt program advisors and with engineering programs and majors in general; and, dealing with living arrangements and other external factors that affect their academic environment. Additionally, themes from 2019-2020 include how students adapted to the remote learning environment that replaced their in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion addresses the differences between sophomore versus junior years, the approaches used by the various RedShirt programs, and provides comparisons with the pathways of traditionally admitted students in engineering. These insights can lead to an increased awareness of the ways to support all engineering students in the middle years that can lead to better overall retention and academic success.
Knight, D., & Louie, B., & Tsai, J. Y. (2021, July), Transitioning to the Middle Years: Learning from RedShirt Engineering Students Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37939
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