An Analysis of Freshman Engineering Student Attitudes
The Freshman Engineering Program (FEP) in the College of Engineering (CoE) at the University of Arkansas was established in 2007 to improve the retention of first-year engineering students to the sophomore year and ultimately support the CoE long-term goal of increasing graduation rates. Since the establishment of FEP, the second-year retention rates for CoE has increased from 62% to 71%. Identifying the factors which influence retention and using the resultant information to improve the academic and student service support for freshman engineering students is critical to the continual success of our program. Towards this effort, we collect and analyze data in many areas.
This paper focuses on identifying attitudes of freshman students that come from varied backgrounds and preparation then determining the changes in those attitudes during their first semester. For this purpose, students in freshman engineering classes were given the Pittsburg Freshman Engineering Attitude Survey twice as an assignment during their first year; pre-survey at the beginning of fall semester and post-survey at the beginning of spring semester. Typical Freshman Engineering students, who are qualified to take Calculus I (on time) or Precalculus (one semester behind), enroll in Introduction to Engineering I in fall semester and Introduction to Engineering II in spring semester. Some of our students, who are qualified to take College Algebra (two semesters behind), enroll in Fundamentals of Success in Engineering Study in fall semester and move on to Introduction to Engineering I or II in spring semester. High-achieving honors students who are qualified to take Calculus II or beyond can enroll in Honors Research or Innovation Experience and Colloquium. The analysis of survey results showed that students’ perception of engineering, persistence in engineering and their desire to be involved in campus all increased from fall semester to spring semester. Our analysis for differences among the students enrolled in different types of freshman engineering classes revealed that while the confidence levels in science and math differ, the persistence in engineering, perception of engineering, study and social skills did not show significant difference between students of varied backgrounds.
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