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Work in Progress: Developing a Procedure for Identifying Indicators of "Over-persistence"

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session


Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Marisa K. Orr Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Marisa K. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Engineering and Science Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity, diversity, and academic policy. Dr. Orr is a recent recipient of the NSF CAREER Award for her research entitled, “ Empowering Students to be Adaptive Decision-Makers.”

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Rachel K. Anderson Clemson University

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Rachel Anderson recently earned her PhD in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University. She is now the Assistant Coordinator for Clemson's Peer Assisted Learning program. Her research interests include cross-disciplinary teamwork, student development, and program assessment. Rachel received a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University and a B.S. in Physics from Baldwin-Wallace University.

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Maya Rucks Clemson University

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Maya Rucks is an Engineering and Science Education doctoral student at Clemson University. Her areas of interest include, minorities in engineering, K-12 engineering, and engineering curriculum development.

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This work-in-progress paper represents our initial approach to developing a procedure for identifying indicators of “overpersistence.” This approach is one facet of a larger NSF CAREER project, “Empowering students to be adaptive decision-makers,” to model student pathways using a ground-up curriculum-specific approach with the ultimate goal of helping students choose more strategic paths to graduation. We define “overpersisters” as those students who enter college with a specific major in mind and never sway from that choice, nor graduate in a timely manner. While persistence in and commitment to a major choice are generally viewed positively, some students become fixated on a major that may not be the best fit for them. These overpersisters often spend years in a degree program and eventually leave the institution with no degree, but potentially with a substantial amount of debt. Identifying academic events that cause these students to eventually withdraw from school is the first step towards creating better strategies through which they can persist and succeed in their undergraduate studies.

The concept of overpersistence is defined relative to a particular major, so a student who tries a different major before leaving the institution would not be considered an overpersister. We selected the discipline of Mechanical Engineering as a starting point because of its large enrollment and the first author’s familiarity with the discipline. Our goal is to begin developing a procedure that will identify indicators of overpersistence and provide a foundation that will help to answer the larger research question: In Mechanical Engineering, what academic events commonly lead to late dropout without changes in academic major?

Orr, M. K., & Anderson, R. K., & Rucks, M. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Developing a Procedure for Identifying Indicators of "Over-persistence" Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29151

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