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Using Strengths of First-year Engineering Students to Enhance Teaching

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 12: Teaching and Advising Students in that Critical First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1682.1 - 26.1682.11



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Paper Authors


Shelley Lorimer P.Eng. MacEwan University

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Shelley Lorimer is the Chair of the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSEN) Transfer Program at Grant MacEwan University. She is an instructor in the introductory engineering courses as well. The BSEN program at MacEwan has grown from forty students since in started almost fifteen years ago, to the current 216 students. The majority of the students in the program transfer to second year engineering at the University of Alberta.

Shelley is a graduate of the University of Alberta in engineering and is a registered professional engineer with APEGA (Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta). Prior to her career at MacEwan, Shelley worked in industry as a research engineer and a consulting engineer for several years.

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Jeffrey A Davis P.Eng. Grant MacEwan University

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Dr Davis obtained his PhD at ETH Zurich specializing in multiphase flows
and thermal hydraulics in nuclear reactors. With a passion for teaching,
Dr. Davis' research focuses on pedagogical topics such as student engagement, active learning, and cognitive development. Projects he is currently working on include “Development of a risk assessment model for the retention of students”, “Development of Student Assessment Software”, and “Improving Student Engagement through Active Learning”.

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Using Strengths of First-Year Engineering Students to Enhance TeachingAbstractAnnually, thousands of students enter first-year engineering, each having their own distinctpersonality type. Students attend classes taught by instructors using methods that work forstandardized groups but that are rarely modified for individual students. This can become aconcern with larger class sizes where lecture-style teaching methods are prevalent and remain thesame from year to year. At the end of first year only a fraction of the students remain. Attritionrates of engineering have been reported to be between 40-60%.Studies done almost two decades ago found a strong link between personality type and academicsuccess. In particular, there were several studies that used Myer’s Briggs typing as the method ofanalysis in an attempt to direct teaching practices. To date, an entire body of literature has nowbeen devoted to engineering education with the pursuit of enhancing the education of first-yearengineers. The need for engineers in our increasingly complex world as the baby boomers retirehas never been more apparent. It is necessary to minimize attrition rates to satisfy this need.Risk assessment models can be created which use student identifiers to predict the probability ofstudent success. One hypothesis is that attrition rates can be correlated with learning styles,which in turn can be correlated with strength typing. In order to test this hypothesis, we begin bystudying the traits of first-year engineering students using the Clifton StrengthsFinder®assessment tool. The Clifton’s StrengthsFinder® tool is a combined strengths/leadership/teambuilding tool that has been used in a variety of situations to categorize areas of strength forindividuals. Previous research has postulated a connection between personality typing andstrengths profiling. It has been also found that first-year engineering students at XXXX have asomewhat definitive strengths signature with data obtained from a an ongoing longitudinal study.Using this five year longitudinal study, a multivariate statistical analysis has been performed todetermine the groups of traits (strengths) that first-year engineers possess and the variation ofthese traits from year to year. A comparison of the traits with those of a “model engineer” ismade elucidating shortfalls in the current curriculum. Finally, we discuss how to foster thegrowth of the missing traits in first-year students to ensure that they are well rounded andmoving forward in their career.

Lorimer, S., & Davis, J. A. (2015, June), Using Strengths of First-year Engineering Students to Enhance Teaching Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25018

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