This complete research paper revisits and describes the efficacy of first-year retention interventions focused on engineering identity that were developed for a common Introduction to Engineering course. This research aims to improve retention rates where presently about half of the engineering undergraduate students exit or drop out. The American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) has indicated that engineering universities should develop retention programs to reduce these numbers. One of the main recommendations is to develop first-year retention programs. At one university, two engineering professors developed first-year retention interventions into the common Introduction to Engineering course they teach. The main interventions employed included refocusing the course on engineering identity. To initially measure if these interventions were effective, an engineering identity pre and post survey was given to four common Introduction to Engineering courses, which comprised of 169 high school and undergraduate students who completed the courses taught in 2016. Four more classes were given the pre and post surveys that were taught in 2017 and 2018 to bring the total number of students surveyed to 273.
The survey instrument used in this study was largely adopted from Prybutok, Patrick, Borrego, Seepersad, and Kiristis who completed a similar study. This paper discusses the quantitative results from these engineering identity pre and post surveys. During the initial look of the courses taught in 2016, the engineering factors that significantly improved from the pre to the post surveys included: performance/competence, design efficacy, recognition by others, and recognition by self. The other engineering factors measured for the courses taught in 2016 that were found to not have significantly improved included: interest, creativity, and caring. By adding the four courses taught in 2017 and 2018, the engineering factors that significantly improved from the pre to the post surveys included: performance/competence, interest, creativity, design efficacy, recognition by others, and recognition by self. The only engineering factors measured from 2016-2018 that was found to not have significantly improved included: caring. These interventions improved the students’ engineering identities. Future work should include conducting a paired survey where the participants’ pre and post survey results are connected and look at ways to improve the students’ engineering identity in the area of caring.
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