Asee peer logo

When They Stay And When They Don’t: Examples Of First Semester Retention Rates And Relationships To Learning Styles

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Best Zone Paper Competition

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1609.1 - 12.1609.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Stephanie Ivey

author page

Anna Lambert University of Memphis

Download Paper |

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

When They Stay and When They Don’t: Examples of First Semester Retention Rates and Relationships to Learning Styles

Stephanie Ivey1, Anna Lambert1 1 Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Memphis


Our research presents initial findings of a pilot-scale project performed at The Herff College of Engineering, The University of Memphis, in the 2004-2005 academic year. This project investigates the persistent issues surrounding difficulties in retention of first-semester engineering students and examines the possibilities of variances in student learning style preferences as potential contributors to students leaving engineering programs. While the researchers acknowledge the limitations associated with a small sample due to research constraints in both time and funding, attempts to mitigate these issues were undertaken by the comparison of data from three separate programs of study: Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. A mixed- methods approach was used consisting of pre/post semester surveys, distribution and analysis of Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory, and qualitative individual interviews with a sample of students who made the decision to leave engineering. Differences between retained and not retained student scores in one of the combined scores from the Kolb Learning Style Inventory were statistically significant for students majoring in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Memphis. Retained students had a stronger preference for abstract conceptualization, while students that were not retained preferred concrete experience. Future plans seek further examination of these findings through refinement of the study instruments combined with repeat data collection and expansion of the methodology to include data from three other engineering institutions in the 2005-2006 academic year.


As engineering educators attempt to respond to the ever-changing technological and global issues associated with 21st century advances, statistical data relating to retention levels for students majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields continues to be alarming, with high-ranking administrators and researchers describing these trends as a “leak in the engineering pipeline.” 1,2,3,4 Multiple confirmations of these trends are verified by veritable sources including “The Neal Report,” sponsored by The National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1986, “The Report of Disciplinary Workshops on Undergraduate Education,” also sponsored by NSF in 1988, and the Sigma Xi National Advisory Group’s “Wingspread Conference” (1989). Most recent is a report issued from the National Academy of Engineering Commission, “The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century-Part 1,” (2004) and this report both confirms the previously mentioned studies and extends the focus to specific characteristics common to engineering students who choose to stay in engineering. 1, 5,6,7,8 While each study examined different populations and used differing methodological approaches, one conclusion was consistent: solutions to these needs can be provided best by a coordinated, integrated system

Proceedings of the 2005 Midwest Section Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education

Ivey, S., & Lambert, A. (2007, June), When They Stay And When They Don’t: Examples Of First Semester Retention Rates And Relationships To Learning Styles Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3081

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: © 2007 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