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Work in Progress: Strategic, Translational Retention Initiatives to Promote Engineering Success

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Postcard Session 1: Retention and Student Success Strategies

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Elizabeth Anne Stephan Clemson University

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Dr. Elizabeth Stephan is the Director of Academics for the General Engineering Program at Clemson University. She holds a B.S. and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Akron. Since 2002, she has taught, developed, and and now coordinates the first-year curriculum. As the lead author of the "Thinking Like an Engineer" textbook, currently in its 4th edition, she has been the primary author team–member in charge of the development of the MyEngineeringLab system.

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Laurel Whisler Clemson University

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Laurel Whisler is Assistant Director and Coordinator of Course Support Programs in Clemson University’s Westmoreland Academic Success Program. In this capacity, she provides vision and direction for the Tutoring and Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) programs and provides support to the General Engineering Learning Community. She is also co-developer of Entangled Learning, a model of rigorously-documented, self-directed learning in communities of practice. She has an M.A. in Music from The Pennsylvania State University and an M.L.S. from Indiana University.

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Abigail T. Stephan Clemson University

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Abigail Stephan is a doctoral student in the Learning Sciences program at Clemson University. Broadly, her research interests include self-directed learning and motivation, learning within communities of practice, the cultural influence on informal and formal learning, and intergenerational learning. Abby currently works as a graduate assistant for the General Engineering Learning Community, which supports freshmen engineering students in building effective learning strategies that are transferable to the workforce, including collaboration, self-regulation, and reflection.

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This Work in Progress will describe a pilot program developed designed to integrate and streamline the existing coursework and resources at [University] to improve the engineering graduate rate and enhance the educational and social experiences of students who begin unprepared for Calculus. Initial mathematics placement is a strong indicator of engineering matriculation beyond the first year. Students who begin [University] in Calculus I have a historic 68% six-year graduation rate at [University] within an engineering major. In contrast, students who begin in “Long Calculus,” an extended two-semester sequence for Calculus I, have a historic six-year graduation rate within an engineering major of 40%. First-year engineering students in Long Calculus also fail the introductory engineering and chemistry courses at a higher rate than their Calculus I counterparts. This paper will describe a pilot program designed to surround Long Calculus students with intentional, targeted support within a community of learners. The program features co-enrollment in a two-credit course, developed by the engineering faculty and Academic Success Center (ASC) personnel. The overall course goal is to help students develop metacognitive awareness of their development in the domain of becoming successful STEM students. The program uses Entangled Learning as its pedagogical philosophy. Developed at [University], Entangled Learning is a heuristic which empowers individuals to direct their own learning through intentional peer-to-peer collaborations and rigorous documentation, particularly in areas of narrating, self-regulating, critically reflecting, integrating, and collaborating. Students are introduced to and encouraged to utilize existing support resources housed within the ASC to create a single point of contact, eliminate the overload of choices students are presented, and maximize collective impact. The ASC provides programs such as professional academic coaching, Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL), and content tutoring services, all of which have been shown to be effective in enhancing retention, scholarship retention, and graduation rates. Additional program support includes mentoring by peers, alumni, and faculty; workshops and presentations by professional academic staff; cohorting students in sections of introductory engineering and mathematics courses; and a pedagogy of active learning. The pilot program began in August 2017. Preliminary results during the fall semester are encouraging and suggest this may be an effective model for supporting first year, at-risk students in engineering. The paper will include a description of the new course and additional support efforts. Academic data for the Long Calculus student group in comparison with the Calculus I student population will be presented for historical data and for the pilot program. Preliminary qualitative data will be included to illustrate the experience of these students. Finally, we will suggest considerations for future implementations.

Stephan, E. A., & Whisler, L., & Stephan, A. T. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Strategic, Translational Retention Initiatives to Promote Engineering Success Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31305

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