This is a work in progress. Time is one of the most valuable resources that human beings have. Time becomes especially important during a student’s undergraduate experience as they try to navigate that important stage in their lives. Faced with new responsibilities and a range of extracurricular activities to choose from, as well as busy class schedules, students may feel that they ‘don’t have time’ to dedicate to everything that they want to. There are many reasons that may be contributing to that problem, but the main purpose of this paper is not to discover the reason more than to better understand the problem itself. This study is aiming to take a close-up look at how engineering students distribute their time between in-class and out-of-class activities. Particularly, we will be looking at how students dedicate time to studying, how their time is spent in lectures and in labs, and how their time balances overall between in-class and out-of-class activities.
Data for the study were collected from in-depth interviews with ten chemical engineering students at a public land-grant U.S. institution, conducted both in the first and second years of their studies. This data is part of a larger longitudinal study that tracks chemical engineering students in six institutions across three countries for four years. For the qualitative analysis, thematic coding was used. The themes were centered on students’ responses on how they used their time during a given week both inside and outside of the classroom.
Preliminary results show how students might not consider assignments required for the classroom as an important part of their studying. Students tended to differentiate between time dedicated to studying from time dedicated to completing assignments. Also, students expressed how a big portion of their time is dedicated to practical labs. Lastly, we noticed how the structure of the curriculum might affect the amount of time students have outside of the class. The students who had all of their classes consecutively felt that their time is more balanced between in-class and out-of-class. Insights from this study can be used by educators to better structure their class time, and for institutions to think about flexibility of the engineering curriculum.
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