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Where Do All the Pre-Majors Go? A Self-Study of Student Stumbling Points in the Pre-Construction Curriculum

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Construction Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Construction Engineering

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Paper Authors


Kimberly Grau Talley P.E. Texas State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Kimberly G. Talley is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, Bobcat Made Makerspace Director at Texas State University, and a licensed Professional Engineer. She received her Ph.D. and M.S.E. from the University of Texas at Austin in Structural Engineering. Her undergraduate degrees in History and in Construction Engineering and Management are from North Carolina State University. Dr. Talley teaches courses in the Construction Science and Management and Civil Engineering Technology Programs, and her research focus is in student engagement and retention in engineering and engineering technology education. Contact:

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Bobbi J. Spencer Texas State University

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B.J. Spencer, Ph.D.

Dr. Spencer is an assistant professor of practice and the internship coordinator in the Department of Engineering Technology at Texas State University. In 2017, she obtained her Ph.D. in Education from Texas State University with the emphasis on professional education. A registered Architect in the State of Texas, she received a Master of Architecture from Texas A&M University in 2007 where she participated in a study abroad semester at the Universita della Svizzera italiana, Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, Switzerland following 23 years of industry experience in architecture and construction.

Dr. Spencer’s research interests include:
Professional & International Education in architectural and construction
Experiential Education in both study abroad and internships
Building information management
Virtual Design and Construction management
Education in online and virtual environments

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Enrollment figures for the construction program at Texas State University indicate an imbalance in the ratio between pre-majors and matriculated majors. The pre-major program is designed to take three semesters but contains two-thirds of the majors in the construction program. This paper reports on the work in progress self-study to determine the stumbling points for students in this pre-major program. Institutional research data will be used to identify courses in the pre-construction curriculum with the highest rates of students receiving unsatisfactory grades (D, F, or W) for credit in order to identify any courses creating an unintended gate to matriculation. In addition to the examination of course grades, student enrollment and retention data will be examined to determine if there is any disparate effect of the pre-major program on a particular group. The self-study is ongoing and will eventually include surveys on student belonging in major and motivations, these initial results show that there are some non-major courses in the pre-major program with high DFW rates that could be causing student to take longer to matriculate or drop out of the major. Further, an examination of retention rates showed that, although there is some variation over the years, typically females and minority students are retained at lower rates than their male and white counterparts. This self-study is presented in order to highlight any issues unique to construction majors that could be common across construction programs.

Talley, K. G., & Spencer, B. J. (2020, June), Where Do All the Pre-Majors Go? A Self-Study of Student Stumbling Points in the Pre-Construction Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35508

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