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What Do We Know About Our Entering Students And How Does It Impact Upon Performance?

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

What Makes Them Continue?

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1304.1 - 8.1304.15



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Paper Authors

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Staci Provezis

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Mary Besterfield-Sacre

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Siripen Larpkiattaworn

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Obinna Muogboh

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Dan Budny

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Harvey Wolfe

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

Session 3553

What Do We Know About Our Entering Students and How Does It Impact Upon Performance? Larry Shuman, Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Dan Budny, Siripen Larpkiattaworn, Obinna Muogboh, Staci Provezis and Harvey Wolfe

University of Pittsburgh


Besides their average SAT scores and possibly their high school rank, engineering faculty and administrators typically know little about their entering freshmen. This limited knowledge hinders both placement in and content of first year courses. For example, how many entering students took calculus in high school? For how many semesters? What grades did they earn? How does their math background correlate with their college boards or college placement testing? How much have they retained? What was their performance in first semester math courses? How many students have had three or more years of foreign languages? Do they continue that in college? Does that motivate them to study abroad? Where there is a common freshman year, how many students select a different major program than the one they initially were interested in at the time of application? By having the answers to these and similar questions, faculty and administration may be able to change curriculum, advising and support services to better support student learning and success.

At the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering we have been collecting such information about our incoming students’ attitudes, math knowledge, academic history, first year academic performance, retention, and general background through a variety of survey instruments, inventories and placement examinations. These data are maintained in a large database, which allows us to easily extract specific information for assessment or monitoring purposes. This enables us to answer questions about our students and use the information to make more informed curriculum and policy decisions. We present a number of examples here including information on entering student attributes, language and math background, departmental choice and performance.


How much do we really know about our students? ABET has now provided a strong incentive through its new accreditation criteria for faculty to obtain a better understanding about their undergraduate student body in order to improve the learning process. While this may require the collection of additional data, with a systematic process it can be done in an efficient manner. In particular, a large number of institutions participate in UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), especially its Freshman Survey which yields normative data on entering students1. Such data not only provides valuable insights about the entering students but, when combined with other information, may enable advisers to better place students into appropriate math and writing courses.

Provezis, S., & Besterfield-Sacre, M., & Shuman, L., & Larpkiattaworn, S., & Muogboh, O., & Budny, D., & Wolfe, H. (2003, June), What Do We Know About Our Entering Students And How Does It Impact Upon Performance? Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11829

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