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Work in Progress: Identifying Success Factors for Chemical Engineering Sophomores and Testing the Effects of an Intervention

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Works in Progress in Chemical Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Brad Cicciarelli Louisiana Tech University

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Brad Cicciarelli is a Senior Lecturer in the chemical engineering and mechanical engineering departments at Louisiana Tech University. He earned a B.S. from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. from M.I.T., both in chemical engineering. He teaches a variety of courses, including material and energy balances, thermodynamics, heat transfer, and mass transfer.

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Eric Sherer Corteva Agriscience

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Eric Sherer is a senior data scientist - statistics and machine learning at Corteva Agriscience. He received a B.S. in chemical engineering from Caltech and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Purdue University and was an associate professor in chemical engineering at Louisiana Tech University before joining Corteva Agriscience.

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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 recipient of the NSF CAREER Award for her research entitled, “Empowering Students to be Adaptive Decision-Makers.”

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Our study aims to examine factors that influence the academic achievement and persistence of chemical engineering students in the understudied sophomore year, where many programs observe significant attrition. Specifically, we focus on the constructs of self-efficacy and social support. Research has indicated that these factors can have a significant impact on student experience and student success. We generated surveys which include subscales from validated instruments used in the study of self-efficacy and social integration and administered these surveys to chemical engineering (“ChemE”) students at the beginning and end of the sophomore year. Social Cognitive Career Theory was used to hypothesize the expected (positive) relationships between the factors of self-efficacy and social support and the outcomes of student achievement and persistence. When the data set is large enough, path analysis will be used to test these hypotheses, adjusting for prior achievement using indicators such as first-year GPA. Achievement is measured in the short term by performance in sophomore-level ChemE courses and in the long term by final ChemE GPA. Persistence is measured in the short term by responses to survey questions assessing intent to persist and in the long term by graduation rate.

Additionally, we will test whether participation in a two-day voluntary workshop (the “ChemE Camp”) held just before the start of fall classes has a lasting impact on the factors of self-efficacy and social support. The same surveys described above are administered to camp attendees before and after the camp, and preliminary results show an increase in self-efficacy, social and academic integration, and intent to persist for those who attend. These effects appear to largely sustain throughout the sophomore year, in contrast to the results observed for non-attendees. In this work-in-progress, we share our findings from the most recent academic year illustrating the positive effects of the two-day intervention on self-efficacy and social support.

Cicciarelli, B., & Sherer, E., & Orr, M. K. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Identifying Success Factors for Chemical Engineering Sophomores and Testing the Effects of an Intervention Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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