2019 FYEE Conference

Probability and Statistics – Early Exposure in the Engineering Curriculum

Presented at M3B: Learning in Context 2

Probability and Statistics classes are often introduced in the second year of an Engineering Program. However, the benefits of students being exposed to these subjects during the Freshman Year have been identified. Some of these benefits are: students’ early recognition of the presence and importance of probability and statistics in addressing engineering problems; students’ recognition that statistics and engineering are not in fact two distinct, unrelated entities; and the students’ early exposure will benefit them in subsequent courses in their academic career. Major constraints in exposing students to probability and statistics in their first year are: course-space availability, limited classroom time and the depth at which an instructor can delve into the material.
One option for infusing statistics into a First Year course is to integrate the material into a first term “Introduction to Freshman Design” course. In order to achieve this, lecture and recitation sections were added to an existing laboratory-based course to create “Introduction to Engineering Design and Data Analysis.” (resulting in an increase of course credits). Four weeks of the ten-week course focused on probability and statistical concepts. Lectures highlighted relevant statistics topics, and recitations were dedicated to the students working in teams performing exercises that reinforced the lecture material. Instructional assistance was provided in the recitation sections by graduate teaching assistants.
During Fall 2018, 800 students were enrolled in the course in which there was one 50-minute lecture and one 50-minute recitation each week. Lectures contained 100-120 students and recitation sections were made up of a maximum of 30 students. Direct assessment of the impact of lecture and recitation activities on learning of statistical concepts was accomplished through homework assignments, grading of the recitation exercises and questions on the final exam. Further insight into student perceptions of the recitation activities was garnered from comments on the course evaluations. Results from the initiative were encouraging and are presented herein.

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