June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Educational Research and Methods
WIP: Rethinking How We Teach in Engineering Through a Course Redesign Initiative
One of the key concerns in Engineering disciplines is the ability to retain students who begin college with the intention of entering an Engineering field. In their study on why undergraduates leave STEM disciplines, Elaine Seymour and Nancy Hewitt identified disappointment among engineering majors in their learning experiences as one of the major factors leading students to drop out. “All four of the most highly-ranked factors contributing to switching decisions reflect some aspect of teaching...concerns about pedagogical effectiveness, advising, assessment practices, and curriculum structure, pervade all but seven of the twenty-three issues” (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997, p. 34). Other researchers have reached similar conclusions and attributed this disappointment to poor teaching and mentoring.
The College of Engineering has been participating in a new initiative at Temple University - Project SOAR (Student-Oriented Active Redesign) - aimed at improving student retention in courses with high DFW rates (grades of “D”, “F” or “W”). While the traditional university response reacts to the problem by providing support interventions for struggling students (tutoring, peer mentoring, etc.) in creating Project SOAR, we chose to reframe the problem proactively so that we address possible underlying issues around course content, course design, and/or course pedagogy. Two courses in Engineering participated in this inaugural project, including Engineering Statics. From Fall 2012 to Fall 2015, the DFW rate in Engineering Statics far exceeded the university average, sometimes reaching rates as high as 48.4% (approximately eight times the university average).
Faculty members involved in the project attended a 3-week intensive Course Redesign Institute led by the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, followed by private consultations with faculty developers, and training sessions with instructional technology specialists. They committed to applying the principles they acquired in these interventions to redesigned courses piloted in Fall 2016. Some of the changes applied to the Engineering Statics course for this first iteration of the redesign include opportunities for more practice and feedback, the power of a positive syllabus, implementation of the principles of Universal Design for Learning, and how active-learning interventions (such as setting up more collaborative activities) can make an impact on student learning. Most interesting is that, as a direct result of involvement in SOAR, the College of Engineering is exploring implementation of more sweeping changes to the introductory Engineering curricular sequence.
The study attached to the project aims to examine any change in the DFW rates, but also shifts in student beliefs of self-efficacy and growth mindset, that is, their belief that they can learn the material and succeed in the course, and that they can overcome obstacles they may face. Of particular interest might be the qualitative research that looks at differences in feelings of competence and conceptual understanding among students who have previously failed the course and then taken it again in the new form. Future SOAR studies will track students as they progress through college to measure their persistence in the major as compared to those who took Statics in its original form. This paper will detail the interventions, the study, and any preliminary results available from the pilot of the redesigned Statics course.
Fiore, S. L., & Fagan, S. P., & Brookstein, D. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Rethinking How We Teach in Engineering Through a Course Redesign Initiative Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29177
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