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Work in Progress: Analyzing Student Outcomes to Inform First-Year Advising Practices and Policies at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Monday 5-Minute Work-in-Progress Postcard Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count

15

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/29143

Download Count

132

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Paper Authors

biography

Emma Tevaarwerk DeCosta Northwestern University

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Dr. Tevaarwerk DeCosta works as a dedicated first year adviser at the McCormick School of Engineering, where she advises incoming first year students and teaches courses in freshmen design and materials science.

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J. Alex Birdwell Northwestern University

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Alex Birdwell is an assistant professor of instruction with the Undergraduate Engineering Office and the Mechanical Engineering department at Northwestern University. His research was conducted at the intersection of robotics and biomechanics in the field of human-machine interactions, and explored novel ways to control robotic prosthetic hands. He is very passionate about student education and currently teaches courses at the undergraduate level that have included manufacturing, design, experimental methods, and thermodynamics. He greatly enjoys advising all levels of undergraduate engineering, but predominantly works with first-year students in his role as a McCormick Advisor. He is the producer for the Lightboard studio, and is currently exploring models for effective online and hybrid teaching models.

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Ken Gentry Northwestern University

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Ken Gentry is a Senior Lecturer and Adviser working mainly with first-year students. He teaches cornerstone design and courses in the biomedical engineering department.

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Richard Wayne Freeman P.E. Northwestern University

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Prof Richard Freeman is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is one of four McCormick Advisers responsible for developing and implementing the First Year Advising Model. Prof Freeman has previously taught at The United States Coast Guard Academy, Valparaiso University and Iowa State University. Prof Freeman can be reached at richard.freeman@northwestern.edu

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Alan R. Wolff Northwestern University

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Alan is Senior IT Director at the school.

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Abstract

This Work In Progress describes the efforts of a team of dedicated first-year academic advisers at an engineering school to use outcomes such as grades, dropped or withdrawal from courses, and overall GPA as metrics for the success of the first-year advising program. This school of engineering welcomes 500 freshmen every fall, providing each with access to individualized advising based on an advising -as-teaching paradigm. Five dedicated first year advisers, each with 100 advisees, help students to select courses in mathematics, sciences, engineering and design, and along a determination of their overall load for fall quarter freshmen year. All freshmen are streamlined into an engineering and design courses. Advisers use the results of math and chemistry placement exams and Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) calculus and chemistry exams (if any) to determine the proper starting courses in those subjects. Past data gathering and analysis efforts to examine the efficacy of the first year advising program have focused on surveys of student satisfaction with their adviser, including knowledge of course and curriculum, etc. Current efforts involve examining specific outcomes of advising, which include metrics such as noting if students completed the advised level of math or an alternate level and the grade that was earned. Initial analysis has revealed that while overall retention in the school of engineering is quite high (85-90%), levels of math and physics preparation prior to matriculation are strong predictors of success in engineering and retention... Outcomes (final grades, dropped classes, probationary academic status/ interschool transfer requests) for first-year student populations with varying levels of incoming credit revealed certain sub-populations who struggled. It was found that students with sufficient, but still less than the average preparation were at the greatest risk. The data have also provided insights into the profile of the student body as a whole. Mathematics placement exam results indicate that 70-80% of students enter placing into calculus III (of a four-course sequence); the remaining 20-30% place into calculus I and II in relatively equal proportions. No physics placement exam exists, so self-reported scores on AP and IB exams are used as a way to determine level of physics preparation, along with data on the number of years of high school physics students had taken. Roughly half of the student population had taken a physics AP or IB exam, and upwards of 95% had some exposure to physics in high school. Performance in first year engineering courses was strongly correlated with level of physics preparation, as evidenced by overall GPA. Overall GPA is also strongly correlated with the number of credits with which a student entered the university, and appears to suggest that those coming in with less preparation are at the bottom end of the class during freshmen year. Although we are still in the data mining and correlation phase, the plan is to be able to identify in advance, through examination of placement scores and AP/IB credits, those students whose profiles have historically put them at greater risk of struggling academically in first year engineering courses. From there, we hope to leverage the dedicated freshmen advising team to better coordinate courses, programs, and support for students with adequate but still lower the average levels of preparation.

DeCosta, E. T., & Birdwell, J. A., & Gentry, K., & Freeman, R. W., & Wolff, A. R. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Analyzing Student Outcomes to Inform First-Year Advising Practices and Policies at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/29143

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