Long-Term Impact of an Elective, First-Year Engineering Design Course
2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
This evidence-based practice describes the impact on retention of implementing an elective, firstyear engineering design course. Authentic, client-based projects form the focus of a one-semester freshman design course at Rice University. The course is an elective course available for all freshman students in the School of Engineering. During the course, first-year students learn the engineering design process and use it to solve meaningful problems drawn from local hospitals, industry, local
... munity partners, Rice University, and international partners. The course was designed to meet two high-level objectives in the School of Engineering: (a) to have students learn and practice the engineering design process early in their engineering education, and (b) to increase undergraduate retention in engineering at Rice University by 10 percentage points. (e.g., interest, self-concept, self-efficacy) and academic performance and retention. Future work will include pre-tests and post-tests to control for pre-existing differences in attitude and interest by course enrollment. We will also examine the impact of other early academic experiences on retention, including research experiences and participation in other courses with hands-on learning components. Research suggests that engaging students in project-based learning has an array of benefits. In particular, participation in design courses has been shown to increase students' critical thinking, 11 improve academic performance, 12 and increase engineering retention rates. 13, 14 Moreover, the benefits of these courses are not limited to one type of student. For example, the engineering retention rate for students who participated in a one-semester engineering design course at the University of Colorado increased for most student groups (i.e., 64% vs 54% for all students, 71% vs 56% for female students, 62% vs 54% for male students, and 64% vs 54% for Caucasian students). 7 The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of participation in an elective engineering design course on retention in engineering specifically and STEM fields more generally.