The aim of our project is to significantly increase 1st and 2nd year retention rates and graduation rates in engineering and computer science at our institution. Our work has sought to re-form the undergraduate student experience in our college into one with a more welcoming climate, promoting strong faculty-student interactions and best practices in engineering education. In particular, we have focused on a multi-pronged approach to improving the quality of instruction and academic advising through a synergistic series of activities including: a well-supported faculty development program in teaching; the redesign of gateway courses and implementation of innovative and active learning pedagogies; guidance for faculty in their advising practice; and extension of previously tested first year academic support into the second year.
Since March 2013, over 70 faculty development opportunities have been organized by the project team and offered to the faculty in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. These programs have consisted of multi-day, off-campus workshops; half-day, on-campus workshops; summer workshops; invited lectures; semester-long book clubs; informal teaching and learning luncheons and happy hours; and interactive sessions at annual faculty retreats. Faculty development opportunities have included introduction of innovative teaching techniques and programs such as POGIL, CATME and Project Based Learning, as well as enhancing knowledge of teaching tools such as Blackboard, Rubrics and Social Media. In addition the project team developed a Teaching and Learning Blackboard site which provides innovative pedagogy resources, faculty development announcements, and discussion boards that all faculty can access; along with a website where faculty can access innovative teaching ideas submitted by their colleagues. To date, over 75 faculty members have participated in at least one of these development opportunities (approximately 75% of total college faculty) and 16 faculty have participated in over 30% of the programs offered.
Over the course of this project, the two-year retention rate in the College of Engineering and Computer Science has increased from 63% to 80%. The four and six year graduation rates have also increase by 10 percentage points each. Student performance has improved significantly in gateway courses taught by faculty who have participated in more intensive faculty development programs (e.g. multi-day workshops). For example, the D/F/W rate for students in five such courses has dropped by an average of 4.1%. More than fifteen gateway courses in the college have been redesigned over the past five years and assessment is currently underway to determine the effects on student learning and attitudes towards persistence and success. Successful academic support services, such as our Academic Excellence Workshop (AEW) courses, have been extended to nearly all 2nd year courses in the college and students who participate in two or more AEW courses are retained in the college at a rate of nearly 100%.
We continue to work to identify the most impactful faculty development activities and develop a plan to institutionalize these beyond the support of this grant. Above all, we have made great strides towards developing a culture that supports innovative teaching, student-active pedagogies, and best practices in advising.
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