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The following articles all appeared in the Fall, 1996 issue of Success 101.

1. Authors Corner
2. Teaching Pedagoy: Teaching Styles
3. Impostors Everywhere by Richard Felder, North Carolina State University
4. Teaching Methodology: The One-Minute Paper
5. Personal Development: Group Discussion on Attitude
6. Community Building: Spirit Days, by Forest Smith, Louisiana State University
7. Feature Column: An "Introduction to Engineering and Engineering Technology" Course for High School Students by Cynthia Hirtzel, Dean of Engineering, Temple University
8. NSF-Sponsored Chautauqua Short Course: Enhancing Student Success Through a Model "Introduction to Engineering" Course
9. Right from the Start: Introducing Career Planning in Engineering 101 by Lib Crockett, Clemson University
10. Personal Development: Locus-Of-Control by Milton Randle, California State University, Los Angeles
11. Opinion Piece: Just DO it! by Arlene Norsym, University of Illinois at Chicago
12. Facilitating a Sense of Community by Bob Stevenson, East Los Angeles College
13. Exercise: Personal Development
14. Introduction to Studying Engineering at the University of Cape Town by Jeff Jawitz, University of Cape Town, South Africa
15. Community Building: Human Relations Training
16. Professional Development: Rewards and Opportunities
17. Teaching Methodology: Brainstorming
18. Personal Development: An Electronic Look at My Students Belief Windows by Madeline Fish, California State University, Sacramento
19. Call for Papers

Author's Corner

This is the second issue of Success 101. The purpose of this newsletter is to provide a forum for engineering faculty and administrators, engineering student services staff, and minority engineering program staff to share ideas about how to work with engineering students to enhance their success.

The idea that we can enhance student success is somewhat "revolutionary" within engineering education. It represents a shift from the belief that "some have it, and some dont" to a belief that our students have enormous undeveloped potential that can be developed. Engineering educators too often confuse "what students do do" with "what students could do."

Although working with engineering students on "success" issues can be accomplished through a variety of structures, including summer bridge programs, orientation sessions, and formal and informal one-on-one advising and mentoring, perhaps the most effective structure is an academic year course having a primary focus on student development.

My book Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career was written in response to the recognition that there was a need for a text to support such a course for beginning engineering students.

I have been extremely pleased with the acceptance of the book. Since it was first published in 1995, over 17,000 students at 200 institutions have used it in a variety of ways.

As rewarding as this is, I have come to realize that the book is only a tool and like any tool, it will only accomplish what it is capable of when it is in the hands of a skilled craftsperson.

In the area of student success courses, a skilled craftsperson requires both a vision and also the capability to deliver on that vision.

This vision, as I see it, is best stated as the following:

If I can have 30 or 40 hours with a group of students, I can create a major "life-changing" experience for those students - one that will significantly enhance their success.

The number of engineering educators that share this vision is small but growing. If you have not already done so, I hope you will join that group.

Once you have the vision in mind, you can start down the road of developing the capability to deliver on it. There are lots of resources you can tap. This Success 101 newsletter and the NSF Chautauqua course "Enhancing Student Success through a Model Introduction to Engineering Course" (see p. 5 for more information) are two such resources. I hope you will take advantage of them as you make this journey.


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Teaching Pedagogy: Teaching Styles

The old adage,

Tell me, Ill forget

Show me, I might remember

Involve me, Ill always remember.

is a useful way to remember the importance of adopting "active learning" pedagogies, particularly in an Introduction to Engineering course having a "student development" purpose.

The value of active learning pedagogies can be seen in a more quantitative way through the results of a recent study conducted by the National Training Labs in which the average retention rate resulting from a variety of teaching styles was measured.

Lecture 5%
Reading 10%
Audio Visual 20%
Demonstration 30%
Group Discussion 75%
Teach Others 80%


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Imposters Everywhere by Richard Felder, North Carolina State University

If theres one trait that characterizes most engineering students in their first semester of college, it is insecurity. With very few exceptions, theyre nervous about almost everything¾ living arrangements, social adjustments, finances, and more than anything else, how they will deal with the academic demands of college.

Most of them were successful in high school, getting good grades with very little effort. In their first weeks of college, however, they discover that almost everyone around them was also a high school hotshot, and they then begin to fear that they may be "impostors," who have somehow faked their way into engineering school but who dont really have what it takes to compete there. For some of them, their level of insecurity can paralyze them on assignments and tests, causing their prophecies of failure to be self-fulfilling.

I have found that it helps freshmen a lot to tell them about this mental game that so many of them are playing on themselves. I have written a short paper called "Impostors Everywhere" that I hand out to freshmen in our Introduction to Engineering course about three weeks into the term. (Note: Reprint of this paper is provided for your use immediately following this article) I spend about ten minutes in class summarizing the contents of the paper and then suggest that they talk to me or their academic advisor if the paper raises any issues they would like to discuss.

Many of them later tell me that they found it reassuring to know they werent the only ones struggling with those feelings. Gratifyingly, the paper induced a few of the worst "impostors" to seek counseling assistance¾ the best thing they could have done for themselves.

You might want to give it a try with your students.

Impostors Everywhere

He knocks on the door, scans the room to make sure no one else is with me, and nervously approaches my desk. I ignore the symptoms of crisis and greet him jauntily.

"Hi, Don - what's up?"

"It's the test tomorrow, Dr. Felder. Um...could you tell me how many problems are on it?"

"I don't see how it could help you to know, but three."

"Oh. Uh...will it be open book?"

"Yes - like every other test you've taken from me during the last three years."

"Oh...well, are we responsible for the plug flow reactor energy balance?"

"No, it happened before you were born. Look, Don, we can go on with this game later but first how about sitting down and telling me what's going on. You look petrified."

"To tell you the truth, sir, I just don't get what we've been doing since the last test and I'm afraid I'm going to fail this one."

"I see. Don, what's your GPA?"

"About 3.6, I guess, but this term will probably knock it down to..."

"What's your average on the first two kinetics tests?"


"And you really believe you're going to fail the test tomorrow?"


Unfortunately, on some level he really does believe it. Logically he knows he is one of the top students in the department and if he gets a 60 on the test the class average will be in the 30's, but he is not operating on logic right now. What is he doing?

The pop psychology literature calls it the impostor phenomenon. The subliminal tape that plays endlessly in Don's head goes like this:

I don't belong here...I'm clever and hard-working enough to have faked them out all these years and they all think I'm great but I know better...and one of these days they're going to catch on...they'll ask the right question and find out that I really don't understand...and then...and then....

The tape recycles at this point, because the consequences of them (teachers, classmates, friends, parents,...) figuring out that you are a fraud are too awful to contemplate.

I have no data on how common this phenomenon is among engineering students, but when I speak about it in classes and seminars and get to "...and they all think I'm great but I know better," the audience resonates like a plucked guitar string. Students laugh nervously, nod their heads, turn to check out their neighbors' reactions. My guess is that most of them believe deep down that those around them may belong there, but they, themselves, do not.

They are generally wrong. Most of them do belong. They will pass the courses and go on to become competent, and sometimes outstanding, engineers. But the agony they experience before tests and whenever they are publicly questioned takes a severe toll along the way. Sometimes the toll is too high. Even though they have the ability and interest to succeed in engineering, they cannot stand the pressure and either change majors or drop out of school.

It seems obvious that someone who has accomplished something must have had the ability to do so (more concisely, you cannot do what you cannot do). If students have passed courses in chemistry, physics, calculus, and stoichiometry without cheating, they clearly had the talent to pass them. So where did they get the idea that their high achievements so far (and getting through the freshman engineering curriculum is indeed a high achievement) are somehow fraudulent? Asking this gets us into psychological waters that I have neither the space nor the credentials to navigate. Suffice it to say that if you are human, you are subject to self-doubts, and chemical engineering students are human.

What can you self-labeled impostors do to get past this self-defeating thinking pattern?

Talk about the impostor phenomenon with your fellow students. There is security in numbers. You will be relieved to learn that most of those around you - including that hotshot in the first row with the straight-A aver-age - have the same self-doubts.

Remember that your abilities - real or otherwise - have sustained you for years and are not likely to desert you in the next 24 hours. You may not believe it just because I say so, of course - those self-doubts took years to build up and will not go away that easily. But, the message may get through if you keep reminding yourself. The reas-surance must be gentle and positive. It can also be helpful to remember that you have gone through the same ritual of fear before and will probably do as well now as you did then.

While grades may be important, the grade you get on a particular test, or even in a particular course, is not that crucial to your future welfare and happiness. You may be even less inclined to believe this one, but one bad quiz grade rarely changes the course grade and, even if the worst happens, a shift of one letter grade changes the final overall GPA by about 0.02. No doors are closed to a student with a 2.84 GPA that would be open if the GPA were 2.86.

Be aware that you can switch majors without losing face. It is no secret that many students enter our field for questionable reasons - high starting salaries, their fathers wanted them to be engineers, their friends all went into engineering, and so on. If you can be persuaded that you do not have to be a chemical engineer, the consequent low-ering of pressure can go a long way toward raising your internal comfort level, whether you stay in chemical engi-neering or go somewhere else.

Caution, however: If you are in the grip of panic about your competence or self-worth, dont make any serious deci-sions, whether about switching curricula or anything else, until you have had a chance to collect yourself with the assistance of a trained counselor.

One final word: When I refer at seminars to feeling like an impostor among one's peers, besides the resonant responses I get from students, I usually pick up some pretty strong vibrations from the row where the faculty is sitting. But, that's another story.


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Teaching Methodology - The One-Minute Paper

The one-minute paper developed at Harvard University (R. J. Light, "The Harvard Assessment Seminars, First Report 1990") can be used to great advantage in the teaching of an Introduction to Engineering course having a "student development" focus.

The idea is to conclude each class session a few minutes before the end of class time. Then, ask each student to take out a sheet of paper and write down brief answers to two questions:

(1) What is the big point you learned in class today?

(2) What is the main, unanswered question you leave class with today?

A box is placed on a table near the classroom door, and students simply drop their papers in the box as they leave. The papers are written anonymously for the professor to read after the class.

Through this extraordinarily simple exercise, five benefits are realized:

Students are constantly thinking throughout the class about what they will write. The exercise keeps students minds focused on the big idea of each session, and also on what points remain unclear.

The instructor receives immediate feedback which can provide a starting point for the next class session. Some professors hand out summaries of student responses so students can learn from what the entire class found clear and unclear.

Students appreciate the opportunity to give immediate and specific feedback. They feel their opinions are valued and respected.

Students writing improves. Generally, responses during the last weeks of a course are longer and more thoughtful and articulate than those during the early weeks.

Students are made more aware of what they are learning from the course.

Try using "The One-Minute Paper" in your Introduction to Engineering class. Youll learn from it and your students will like it.


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Personal Development - Group Discussion on Attitude

One of the articles in this newsletter, "Locus of Control" by Milton Randle (see p. ??) discusses strategies for working with students to assist them in taking control of their lives. A useful exercise to help students take responsibility for their attitudes is to divide your class into small groups and have each group discuss the following quote from Charles Swindoll, Calgary Chapel, Orange County California.


"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, our attitude.

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our Attitudes."


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Community Building - Spirit Days by Forest Smith, Louisiana State University

The Minority Engineering Program (MEP) at LSU has promoted "Spirit Day" for the past seven years. Students in the Engineering Orientation Course must wear school colors (purple and/or gold) to be considered present in the Tuesday session of the class. The MEP staff and student assistants must also wear school colors on Tuesdays. The MEP program has t-shirts printed with the program emblem. Students can purchase these t-shirts, or they can wear any university paraphernalia that they own. The goal of wearing school colors is to establish and maintain school spirit.

This strategy has blossomed into one of the ways we build community among MEP students. The excitement produced on Tuesdays is electrifying. Students enter the classroom in anticipation of which other students will be dressed like them. Unspoken wagers are solidified as class begins. "High-fives" are observed as students acknowledge that "all great minds think alike." Students are heckled because of "strange shades of purple or gold." Voting takes place to determine whether students whose purple or gold is hidden (e.g., in the patterns of their socks or shirts) should be counted present. Decisions are made about what will be worn the following Tuesday. Friendships are formed. Buddies are born. A community is being established!


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Feature Column - An "Introduction to Engineering and Engineering Technology Course for High School Students by Cynthia Hirtzel, Dean of Engineering, Temple University

In this and future columns, I will be describing a course entitled "Introduction to Engineering and Engineering Technology" that we developed for high school students. The primary textbook for the course is Studying Engineering by Ray Landis and much of the philosophy, ideas, and motivation for the course were derived from Landis work, research, and experience with student development and success. In this first column, I will focus on our motivation for developing this course.

At Temple University, we have become increasingly aware of a declining interest in engineering and science among our youth. For example, surveys of May 1996 high school graduates in New York revealed that only six percent expressed any desire to major in engineering or engineering-related fields.

Part of the declining interest is due to the changing demographics of the pool of graduating high school students. As the number of women and minorities¾ groups that traditionally have been underrepresented in technical fields¾ grows dramatically, efforts must be made to attract larger numbers of students from these groups into engineering study. One approach is to move engineering curricula into the high school level.

Our recognition of this need resulted from an awareness that the Carver High School of Engineering and Science located in our area did not offer a single course having the word "engineering" in the title. The development of our "Introduction to Engineering and Engineering Technology" course was our response to this need.

The underlying philosophies and motivations of this course were:

To introduce students to the exciting opportunities in these disciplines and to present an overview of the different fields and different issues involved.

To provide a foundation for student success in college, whether or not the students pursued engineering or engineering technology majors.

The second purpose was the reason we decided to use the book Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career. This book focuses on developing and encouraging attitudes and behaviors that are essential to success in engineering study. These attitudes and behaviors are equally applicable to any field of study or in any endeavor.

The course was first offered at Carver High School in Spring 1996. The topics covered in the course were:

Unit 1: Succeeding in Engineering and Engineering Technology Studies
Unit 2: History of Engineering and Engineering Technology
Unit 3: Fields of Engineering and Engineering Technology
Unit 4: Ethics, Professional Responsibility, and Safety
Unit 5: Technical Communication - Written and Oral
Unit 6: Graphic Communication
Unit 7: Statistics and Error Analysis
Unit 8: Problem Solving and Engineering Design
Unit 9: Energy Systems
Unit 10: Course Conclusion

Additional details on the course will be presented in future issues of Success 101. I would like to acknowledge the financial support of Lockheed Martin and Data Systems in Philadelphia in offering this course at Carver High.


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NSF-Sponsored Chautauqua Short Course: Enhancing Student Success Through a Model "Introduction to Engineering" Course

Join other engineering faculty, minority engineering program staff, and engineering student services staff in a three-day short course to share and learn strategies and approaches for enhancing engineering student success.

The short course, offered last year for the first time, will be conducted twice this year:

March 20-22, 1997 at the Sheraton Rosemead Hotel in Los Angeles, California

May 5-7, 1997 at the new Science Center at the Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Participants will learn the content and pedagogy for accomplishing important objectives under five key themes:

community building
professional development
academic development
personal development

The short course will benefit those working to enhance student success through summer orientations, formal academic year courses, or formal and informal advising and mentoring.

The format of the course will be strongly interactive with emphasis placed on group problem solving and experiential learning.

The short course will be facilitated by Dr. Ray Landis, Dean of Engineering and Technology at California State University, Los Angeles and author of the "student success" text Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career, Ms. Arlene Norsym, Assistant Dean of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (Atlanta only), and Dr. Ed Prather, Assistant Dean of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati (Los Angeles only).

There is no cost for attending the short course (except for a $40 application fee) Participants will be responsible for their travel expenses and accommodations.

To register for the Los Angeles course, contact:

Dr. Francis P. Collea
California State University, Dominquez Hills
Telephone: (310) 516-3755
Fax: (310) 516-4484
E-mail: [email protected] csudh.edu

To register for the Atlanta course, contact:

Brother John Edward Doody
Christian Brothers Univ
Telephone: (901) 722-0462
Fax: (901) 722-0465
E-mail: [email protected] cbu.edu


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Right from the Start: Introducing Career Planning in Engineering 101 by Lib Crockett, Clemson University

Should every student who enters college as an engineering major remain an engineering major? Of course not! But not every student who questions his or her choice of major should be encouraged to leave, either. How can we help students assess their abilities and aptitudes to succeed in a rigorous and demanding curriculum?

One of the greatest challenges in advising students is helping them recognize and use their strengths, while at the same time acknowledging and compensating for their weaknesses. Two years ago at Clemson University, we decided to use Engr 101, Introduction to Engineering, as a vehicle to help students acquire information about themselves, about the world of work, and about how to combine the two to make the best possible career choice. While we felt that departmental presentations and tours were still a valid source of information, we wanted to increase student awareness and understanding about the process of choosing a career. So we decided to take a two-pronged approach of self-assessment through research and personal reflection.

Strong Interest Inventory

To help our freshmen identify their interests, we decided to have them take the Strong Interest Inventory (Available from Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., Palo Alto, CA). The Strong is a well-known and easily administered career interest instrument. It asks about preferences toward occupations, school subjects, work activities, people, and leisure activities. Results are compared to the responses of individuals who have been employed in a specific professions for at least three years. Results are grouped into several categories: General Occupational Themes, Basic Interest Scales, Professional Occupational Scales and Personal Style Scales..

The Career Planning staff interpreted the results for our classes stressing that this instrument is not a prescription for a career, but just one source of information needed to make a decision.

Students then completed a written assignment in which they personalized their results by: 1) discussing whether they agreed or disagreed with their Strong profile and why; 2) describing how their interests could be utilized as strengths in the engineering profession; and 3) disclosing whether the results of the Strong had affected their decision to remain in the engineering program.

This assignment and the results of the Strong were placed in the students files and provided the General Engineering advisors useful background information in meeting with students to discuss their choice of major.

For the approximately 150 out of 750 students who changed their major from engineering during their first three semesters at Clemson, the Strong seems to confirm earlier feelings. They tell us they were unsure of their choice of engineering from the start. The Strong seemed to give them a justification to explore other areas.

For those students who continued in engineering, the results of the Strong provided useful information in selecting their specific engineering discipline (e.g., electrical, mechanical, civil, etc.).

Electronic Databases

Additionally we taught students about other sources of career information including three electronic databases are readily accessible through either our public lab facilities or the Internet.

SIGI PLUS (Available from Educational Testing Service, P. O. Box 6403, Princeton, NJ 08541-6403)

South Carolina Occupational Information System (SCOIS) Part of a larger system available from COIN Educational Products, 3361 Executive Parkway, Suite 302, Toledo, OH 43606, 1-800- 274-8515)

ESCAPE (Developed at Purdue and available on the WWW at http://fre.www. ecn.purdue.edu/ESCAPE)

We taught students about these databases in the Engr 101 class and then asked them to research a career using these resources. Students were required to select one of the databases and write a short paper using the information that they found. Again we asked that they personalize their findings by telling us why they felt this career was a good fit.

This exercise provided the General Engineering advisers with additional information about our students and their reasoning. We observed that after this exercise, students were more likely to come to our office. They seemed to feel more comfortable discussing their major since they had some facts to use. And because of what they had learned, they got more out of the departmental presentations.

Upperclass Student Panel

Because many freshmen are not yet ready to choose their major, it is very important for them to have some contact with upperclass students who have chosen their specific engineering major. For this purpose, we created a panel of upperclass students who came to class to share their experiences and advice with the freshmen. This session was very interactive since the freshmen related more easily to other students. Our freshmen heard first-hand how to manage many of the demands they face during the first year. This discussion served as a "wake-up call" to many, causing them to reconsider their approach to college, as well as what they want to accomplish.

Develop Career Plan

The final step in our strategy was to help our freshmen develop a freshman-to-senior career plan which included specific goals to accomplish each year. The plan (which can be obtained by contacting the author by e-mail at: [email protected] clemson.edu) includes ways to obtain practical work experience and build a network of professional contacts. The guide to the plan encourages students to engage in personal assessment and to seek opportunities to gain broad based real-world experience. and then gradually narrowing Students are encouraged in more specific areas within the engineering major including getting to know their faculty advisors and professors, joining professional engineering organizations, and seeking ways to build communication skills and leadership skills.

Overall, we feel that the changes we made in Engineering 101 were effective. Students demonstrated increased awareness of the career development process. They were more likely to seek out and use advising services for this purpose and were better informed when they did. Students were able to make better informed decisions about whether to continue in engineering or to change to another major. And what they learned through this process will be useful to them throughout their college experience and throughout life.


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Personal Development: Locus-Of-Control by Milton Randle, California State University, Los Angeles

Most college students know they should practice discipline, work hard, sacrifice and set priorities. So why don't they? If they truly want to succeed (as they say they do when I ask them in class), what gets in the way of so many of them?

The simple answer is: They get in their own way. The hard part is: how do we as teachers of "student success" courses help students get out of their own way and point them in the right direction? Solution: We teach them about their Locus-of-Control.

"Locus-of-Control" (LOC) is a psychological term for the personality trait which explains how we attribute control in our lives. Psychologist J. B. Rotter (J. B. Rotter, "Internal Control-External Control," Psychology Today, v. 1, p 39-43, 1971) used the term "Locus-of-Control," (i.e., where one's sense of control is located), to explain how an individual behaves in relation to how he feels about himself and his external environment. Internal LOC means that the individual believes he is in charge of his life. External LOC means that the individual believes that something or someone other than himself is in charge.

We have used the concept of Locus-of-Control in our MEP Freshman Orientation classes since 1986. Working from the book Personal and Career Exploration by George R. Schmidt (G. R. Schmidt, Personal and Career Exploration, Fourth Edition, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, Iowa, 1994), we are able to teach students a new perspective on themselves and the world in which they live. We have found that studying LOC helps students understand themselves and the belief systems which influence their behavior.

Learning about Locus-of-Control is one of the most effective ways students can begin to understand the relationship between what happens to them and what they make happen. Teaching them about their Locus-of-Control helps me help my students become proactive versus reactive participants in the rigorous study of engineering. Understanding Locus-of-Control can help some students overcome their excuses for not achieving in the classroom and in life itself.

One of the themes of our course is goal setting¾ to have students identify and establish what are their goals in the study of engineering and make a commitment to those goals. In order to make that commitment, students need to possess a sense of self and self-awareness about what works for them and what does not work for them. What many students do not know is how to apply the concepts of goal-setting, discipline, and setting priorities to their individual realities.

The following sections outline a step-by-step pedagogy for assisting students in seeing themselves as the creators of their life.

Step One - Assessment

We introduce our students to the concept of LOC by first having them take two assessments from the "Locus-of-Control" chapter in the Schmidt textbook. The assessments establish a credible framework for the students to buy in to the notion of Locus-of-Control and provides them with an indication of how LOC works in their lives.

Each student scores the exams and receives a score between ten (10) and twenty (20) on assessment one, and three scores on assessment two between eight (8) and thirty-two (32).

A high score indicates a tendency toward an external locus-of-control and a low score indicates a tendency toward an internal locus-of-control. The scores measure the degree to which the students external LOC is based upon chance factors and/or the power of others.

We stress that the results are not absolutes. They are to be used as a tool for awareness. Most importantly, the students begin to develop terms for how they think about themselves and how their thinking influences their college experience.

Step Two - Knowledge

Next students are assigned the task of reading the LOC chapter in the Schmidt book. This assignment introduces students to LOC and the concept of taking control over the events, possibilities, and forces in one's` life. The intent is to have the student begin to realize she has choices and she does have a large degree of control over the outcome of these choices.

"It is not necessarily a matter of who or what is in control of our lives; it is what we feel or believe about being in control."

Step Three - Commitment

Next students are given a writing assignment in which they are asked to discuss:

What the LOC scores tell them about their sense of control and responsibility in their lives.

What they think they need to do to exercise more control for their actions, and why.

Simple in its postulation, the concept affords students a new way to look at themselves and life. Writing about it helps them to gain deeper level of comprehension about LOC and to internalize the process. We caution the students to not write about anything with which they are uncomfortable. Yet, I am always surprised at how easily students relate to discussing their control issues. They readily disclose very personal experiences about the control factors in their lives.

Step Four - Class Discussion

"How many of you have obligations in your lives?" I ask the class.

Hands are raised. I ask one or two to tell us what those obligations are, writing them on the board as they are described. We compile a large number ranging from work-related obligations to family to personal.

After we complete our list I then extol, "That's interesting, because I have no obligations in my life." Silence reigns over the classroom.

"How can it be," I query, "that I have no obligations?"

"You're older than we are" one student will exclaim. Maybe, over-the-hill they might be thinking.

"I'm the same age as some of your parents, am I not? Your parents have obligations, don't they? How can I be so different?"

This always stumps the class.

"I don't have obligations because I have only commitments," I declare eventually. More silence.

"So what's the difference between obligations and commitments?"

More discussion.

"What's an obligation? It's what you gotta do, right? It's what you should do, isn't it?"

"A commitment then is . . . what? That's right. It's what you want to do".

"So how do you make an obligation a commitment?"

Eventually we get to the point when the class acknowledges that it is about thinking differently; that the difference between the two is nothing more than a thought process.

Internal locus-of-control is "commitment-thinking." External locus-of-control is "obligation-thinking."

Step Five - Small Group Discussion

We divide the class in groups of three or four and ask them to develop a brief group presentation on the subject

"Do you think that people succeed because of their ability or that people succeed because of their effort? Which do you think is more important? Ability? Effort? Why?"

We give them about 20 minutes to develop their perspectives. Each group then presents their view to the entire class.

The students always get very involved in this discussion. They take strong positions and generate a high level of energy. Some of the groups will take the devil's advocate position and debate it vociferously. Others will argue that both are important. I believe it is because they have an opportunity to confront on ongoing dichotomy in their lives. Every time we have conducted this exercise, the students come out more in favor of effort than ability.

After each group has presented it views, I ask them which perspective reflects internal locus-of-control and which reflects external locus-of-control. What do you think they say?


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OPINION PIECE: Just DO It! by Arlene Norsym, University of Illinois at Chicago

Certainly by now everyone involved in engineering education is at least subliminally aware of the positives that result from establishing freshman "student success" courses. It could happen, however, that after reading articles about the variety of programs offered, you might feel overwhelmed by what seem to be impossible obstacles at your institution. I'd like to dispel the notion that there is just one right way to deliver these courses and encourage anyone who is still reading this article to JUST DO IT! For, if you are still reading, you are probably motivated and have enough good ideas to make it work. And, I think I can prove it to you.

It Can Work Anywhere - Even on a Limited Budget

For the past eight years the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (an urban, commuter, Research I university) has had a mandatory, zero-credit, one-hour per week, semester-long engineering orientation course called, "Engineering 100." The course has focused consistently on adjustment to college life and student success. Yep, its true, we spend very little time describing the different engineering disciplines; predicting what jobs our students are likely to find waiting for them when they graduate; or describing the accomplishments of noteworthy scientists and engineers.

The Essential Elements

"Why dont we do those important things?" you might ask. We believe that unless students feel they "fit" into the college by the end of their first term, this information will not be necessary at all¾ for, it's very possible they won't be around.

So instead, we focus on a very few goals and emphasize the personal touch¾ in sections that can be as large as 200!

How? Each hour is focused in some way on one of the three interrelated factors which have emerged over and over as predictors of first-year student success. Described in detail in an excellent study conducted by the University of South Carolina (B. Barefoot and P. Fidler, "1991 National Survey of Freshman Seminars, National Resource Center for the Freshman Year Experience, University of South Carolina, 1992), they are:

a felt sense of community

involvement . . . in the total life of the institution

academic/social integration during the freshman year.

Course Materials

We use our Colleges Engineering Student Handbook (look under our College at the UIC home page - http://www.uic.edu) along with Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career, and assign pertinent homework problems. (And, yes, the students do the homework even in a zero-credit course!) We have fun discussing the various topics¾ even in a general session. Students discuss the reading and the answers to the homework in small groups and come to a consensus which they then share with the larger class. We end each segment by making the point we most want them to learn from the readings and discussion¾ such as the importance of time management, impediments to their working up to their potential, and the value of study groups.

Give Students a Voice

At the end of every class period, students are asked to complete a four-question "Fast Feedback Form." The form asks: what the two most important points discussed were; what they expected to learn in the session, but did not; what questions they have that were not answered; and finally, what single improvement they would like to see made in the class. Based on the completed forms, we are able to respond to the individual needs of the students either the next week or the same day by e-mail.

Use Volunteers

At UIC, we are blessed with extremely caring upperclass students who volunteer as TAs. Six times during the semester we break down the Engineering 100 sections into groups of 6-15 by major so they can learn from an upperclass student in their own major. These upperclass students serve as success models, teach the new students about computer resources, student societies, support services, and even show them the nap room! The TAs talk about course work and faculty and share strategies that helped them be successful engineering students at UIC. Also, the groups visit their major departments to meet with faculty and learn more about the curriculum. The groups also meet with alumni for in-depth question-and-answer sessions. And we have a social hosted by members of the professional societies during which they recruit new members.

And what of the TAs? They learn time management skills, practice their public speaking, learn to do lesson planning, and feel really important to the college. Many of them ask to repeat the assignment, a commitment of 20 hours per term. The best part is that some of the TAs have enjoyed the experience of teaching so much that they have decided to go on to graduate school and pursue a teaching career. Others have established the Young Alumni Network, the main purpose of which is to encourage and support new engineering students.


So, what's the point of this story? Its to encourage you to JUST DO IT! I believe anyone with a sincere interest in the success of students can persuade ANY institution (regardless of the obstacles) to provide this essential experience to its new students. All thats really needed is YOUR interest and determination. The variations are endless, and the biggest reward is what the students tell you later: comments like,

"This class provides great insight about what we should expect of ourselves in order to achieve our career goals, I am glad it is a requirement."


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Facilitating A Sense of Community by Bob Stevenson, East Los Angeles College

I have been teaching Engineering at East LA Community College (ELAC) since 1975. For the past ten years, I have taken on GE-101 (Introduction to Engineering) as my own pet project. I have always taught a somewhat traditional Intro to Engineering course with lots of guest speakers along with explanation of the various disciplines. Some parts of the course were specifically addressed to our transfer agreements with local 4-year colleges (Cal State L.A. and USC).

Over the years, I have tried many different textbooks and approaches. Some years, I emphasized the history of engineering where I graded essays on Watt, Fulton, Tesla and other pioneers. In other years, I emphasized communications graphics (orthographic projection), computing (DOS, word processing), and so on. A few years ago, I even tried a book which emphasized mathematical concepts including powers, scientific notations, and logarithms.

Something was missing! I was working hard, but retention was down. There was little to no sense of community among the students. I was feeling disconnected from the students with one way communication (an oxymoron) from me to them.

As I was struggling with trying to find the right formula to teach the Intro to Engineering course, the demographics of ELAC's feeder area was also changing. In the last few years, the type of student entering ELAC's Engineering program has increasingly been disadvantaged minorities. Some of these students present a real instructional challenge. First of all, they tend not to have a role model at home who is experienced with the process of going to college. Most of these students represent the first in their extended family to work toward a BS degree. Because of the typical family's financial situation (often a single-parent household) the student must often work. Because of all of this, the student's life situation is generally not structured for success in college.

The approach presented in Dr. Landis's text, Studying Engineering, has turned much of this around. The most important and effective areas have been those of team building, a greatly increased sense of community, goal setting, time management (a daily planner), structuring the life situation for success and understanding academic success strategies (Homework, preparation for class, learning theory, etc.).

As an example, I now play the "name game" in every class that I teach. I break the students into groups of six to eight and have them introduce themselves by first and last name. I then go around the room and randomly select students who are then asked to introduce other members of their group. The next week, I switch the students around and play the game again. By the end of the fourth or fifth week, the students at least know each others names. I then reenforce this community-building technique by giving them group problem solving or quiz assignments throughout the semester. The results have been amazing! Students now ask each other for help. Retention is up significantly, students are now found studying in groups, and a sense of community is building.

In the past, students typically studied alone (or not at all). Now it is common for ELAC Engineering students to borrow felt-tip pens from the instructors so that they can use an empty classroom to work problems on the board as a group (even on weekends). Club membership is up and an active tutoring program is in place.

Perhaps the most important changes have been to me as a teacher. The old "sink or swim" approach was no longer working (did it ever work?). I am enjoying teaching again and feel connected with the students. In short, I am very grateful for a book and methodology which has shown me the way to become much more effective in teaching the Introduction to Engineering (and all other) Course(s).


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Exercise: Personal Development

Dr. Edward N. Prather, Assistant Dean of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati conducts a course for his students titled "Achievement, Motivation, and Success Behavior." Dr. Prather shared the following exercise he uses to help his students focus on the importance of goal setting.

Goal Setting Exercise

A Five Year Projection

In this exercise, you are being asked to use your imagination. You will derive the most from this exercise if you really search your desires and plans and take them with you as you project yourself five years into the future.

The questions listed below should be answered as if you were actually five years from today. You may wonder whether to answer these questions according to how you want things to be or according to how you honestly think they will be for you in that future. Some mixture of both viewpoints is inevitable and also desirable in this exercise.


How old are you now?

Where are you living?

What is your family or marital status?

What is your occupation?

How much are you earning?

Which of the goals that you have worked toward and have met in the last five years is the accomplishment you are most proud of?

Was it just luck? If not, how did you go about accomplishing that goal?

What difficulties or setbacks did you encounter in working toward that goal?

What kinds of things or people were most helpful to you in your reaching this goal?

Did you surprise yourself or were you pretty sure you could have done it all along?

What future goals are you working on now toward which you have made some progress and when do you think you will have achieved them?

This assignment is given to students to do at home. In class, in groups of three, each student shares his or her answers. Others in the group must provide feedback. Then the whole class discusses what were the common features of the students five year projections.

The point of this exercise is to emphasize the relationship between the ability to visualize and achievement.


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Introduction to Studying Engineering at The University of Cape Town by Jeff Jawitz, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Since the mid-1980's historically white-only South African universities, like the University of Cape Town (UCT), have been able to admit black students without special permission. The proportion of black engineering students has grown rapidly. By 1996, black students form two-thirds of the first-year engineering intake with a third having attended school within the most deprived and under-resourced of the apartheid government's education system. At the other extreme, the majority of white students attended some of the best and most well-resourced schools in the country.

The College of Engineering at UCT has designed a new undergraduate curriculum which attempts to promote the personal development of students taking into account the diversity of the student intake.

A key element in the new first year curriculum is the Introduction to Studying Engineering module taken by all first-year engineering students, a class of almost 400 students. This module provides students with information about the skills and approaches needed to succeed in their engineering studies. The course material is built around the themes of the university environment: Engineering as a career; and effective approaches to studying at the University. The module also provides a structure within which students meet each other and are given feedback on their English writing skills.

The first part of the module is held during the first five weeks of the year and consists of a series of tasks built around a weekly activity cycle of reading, group tasks, individual tasks and writing. A major challenge has been to design the materials and present the module in such a way that it is meaningful to all first-year students.

In the second semester students choose a topic on which to do research and produce a 4-page typed report. Topics are offered that give students an opportunity to deal with issues they feel are most meaningful to them¾ for example, finding practical training, dealing with poor results, reviewing their study methods or developing a Curriculum Vitae. Several resource sessions are held to assist students with using resources at UCT and developing their academic and personal skills.

In the course evaluation conducted during the first year of presenting the course, students who had attended white schools responded that the three most useful elements of the module had been:

Making friends and meeting people

Understanding the engineering curriculum

Developing group work skills

Students who had attended black schools had a slightly different priority list. They rank the following:

Looking at the way you learn and how to improve it.

Making friends and meeting people

Developing group work skills

The majority of students were overwhelmingly positive about the course. The small number of students who responded negatively were all white students several of whom indicated that they felt the material should have been covered at school. However, one white student commented that

"I really enjoyed this module. To begin with I felt that it was a total waste of time and I was bored, but these last few weeks have been extremely helpful especially the part about employers and CV's. I had no idea that I had so much to work on in my personality. I have gained a great deal."

(The author can be contacted by e-mail: )


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Community Building: Human Relations Training

Community building is one of the five key themes of an Introduction to Engineering course having a "student development" focus.

Building students in the class into a learning community logically divides itself into three stages:

Socialization - Each student knows every other student in the class

Group building - Students have a strong sense of group and are committed to a high level of mutual support

Human relations training - Students have the interpersonal skills necessary to interact with each other in a positive and effective manner.

These stages do not necessarily occur sequentially. In fact, each should be an on-going process.

The spring 1996 issue of Success 101 discussed the "socialization" stage. This article will address the "human relations training" stage.

Human Relations Training

The need for human relations training comes about because even if students are committed to supporting each other, many lack the skills to be effective in doing so.

You can either do the training yourself or seek help from professionals in the field. Generally, very experienced and highly effective human relations trainers can be found on your campus¾ in the counseling center or in the psychology or educational psychology departments.


One simple but powerful class exercise is to have each student write down two lists:

A list of things they want and need from other students in the class.

Another list of things they dont want and dont need from other students in the class.

A compilation of all the students lists will provide an excellent basis for discussing those behaviors that are supportive of others and those behaviors that are not supportive of others.

For example, one item on the list of "dont wants" might be "I dont want to be put down by others in the group." Discuss the concept of put downs. Ask the class "How many of you like to be put down by someone even if it is done in jest?" Then ask the class "How many of you have felt put down at one time or another by students in this class?"

You are likely to find that no one likes being put down but many have felt put down. Ask the class "What can we do about this problem, i.e., no one wants it; everyone has it?" Once when I did this, a young lady raised her hand and said "When I feel put down by someone, I tell them I love you too!" The class agreed that anyone who felt put down by another in the class would use this way of telling them so. We checked back several times over the next few weeks and found that this had solved the problem of put downs in the group.

Other common "dont wants" and "dont needs" include:

Dont want to be discounted

Dont people to break agreements they make with me

Dont want information to be withheld from me

Each of these unsupportive behaviors can be worked on with the group and reduced if not completely eliminated.


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Professional Development: Rewards and Opportunities

(Note: This was excerpted from R. Landis, "Building Student Commitment to Engineering," Proceedings of 1996 ASEE Annual Conference, Washington, D.C.)

Helping students under-stand that getting a good education (and specifically an engineering education) will significantly enhance the quality of their life throughout their entire life is an effective way to build commitment. Tell them what your education has meant to your life. When you have other speakers (dean, department chairs, industry representatives), ask them to spend some time giving their own personal testimonials.

Conduct a brainstorming exercise with your students in which they list all of the rewards and opportunities that will come through success in engineering study. Except for the idea that engineers are well paid, many students have given little or no thought to the many other rewards an engineering education will bring to them. Students should be able to come up with a list of thirty or forty items. My top ten list is:

Job satisfaction

Variety of career opportunities

Challenging work

Intellectual development

Opportunity to benefit society

Financial security


Professional work environment

Understand how things work

Avenues for expressing your creativity

Spend significant class time discussing each of the items on the list. What is it? Why would one value it? For example, What do we mean by "prestige"? Is engineering a prestigious profession? What benefits are there to choosing a prestigious profession?

Have students pick their top five items and write a 500-750 word term paper on the topic "Why I Want to Be an Engineer" by personalizing their reasons for valuing each item they selected.


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Teaching Methodology: Brainstorming

I taught my first "student success" course in 1973. At the first class meeting, I wrote the following on the blackboard:

"The purpose of this class is to enhance your success as a student and as a person."

I turned to the class and exclaimed: "I have no idea how to accomplish this!" We started by having the students "brainstorm" things that we could do in the course that would accomplish this purpose. Fortunately for me, they knew. Lots of good suggestions came out, and I set about delivering the things they came up with.

The basic concepts of brainstorming were developed by Alex Osborn in 1938 (see Alex F. Osborn, Applied Imagination¾ The Principles and Problems of Creative Problem Solving, 3rd revised edition, Charles Scribners Sons, New York, 1963).

Brainstorming is a technique for generating ideas in a group setting. Brainstorming is an excellent pedagogy for use in a "student success" course for at least three reasons:

it permits students to actively participate in coming up with strategies to enhance their success

the ideas generated will be more useful and creative than any one person (student or teacher) could generate

students gain experience in a highly effective creative problem solving technique which they can put to use in other situations.

Brainstorming can be conducted individually (e.g. "Write down three things you want and need from students in this class."), in small groups (ideally 5-7), or by the whole class as a group. A problem can be posed by you or by someone in the class.

Group brainstorming can be conducted in two ways: 1) each member of the group offers one idea until all members have had a turn; or 2) any member having an idea speaks out whenever she wants (freewheeling). Every idea should be written down, ideally where everyone in the group can see them.

The basic ground rules for brainstorming are:

All ideas are welcome. There are no wrong answers. Wild ideas are encouraged.

During brainstorming, no judgment or criticism is allowed.

Generate as many ideas as possible. Seek quantity rather than quality of ideas. Dont give long explanations. Be brief.

Building on or expanding previous ideas ("hitchhiking") is encouraged.

Many of the exercises in Studying Engineering could be completed by brain-storming in class, for example:

Tasks that an engineer might perform.

Benefits that will come to you when you graduate in engineering.

Things your professors can do for you in addition to providing instruction.

Skills or attributes you need in order to work effectively with other people.

Behaviors that would send signals to your professors that you dont think the subjects they are teaching are either interesting or important.

Types of documents an engineer might have to write.

Activities you can engage in over the next four years to improve your writing skills.

Positive things about your university.

Next issue: What to do with the ideas generated through brainstorming.

Ray Landis


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Personal Development: An Electronic Look at My Students' Belief Windows by Madeline Fish, California State University, Sacramento

The behaviors that promote student success in an engineering curriculum are well documented. Ray Landis, in his text Studying Engineering provides a concrete road map. The question that overrides all of our student success courses is "how can we create in students a receptivity or desire for change?"

At CSU Sacramento, the MESA Engineering Program (MEP) is piloting a new unit in our Introduction to Engineering and Computer Science, "Student Success" course. Within two weeks of enrolling, students are introduced to the Control Model. This model was developed by Franklin Quest Co.¾ a company known for time management systems and planners used by thousands of corporations.

This model is very quickly mastered, does not depend on a psychological analysis, and places responsibility for personal behavior within the control of the student.

What follows is a brief introduction to the Control Model. A detailed program for implementation is available from Franklin Quest Co. in the form of a package that includes a videotape, audiocassette, text, and worksheet. I present this model to the class using examples and exercises customized around situations encountered by engineering freshmen.

The model assumes four basic human needs, common to all of us. From birth, we are continually putting principles on our belief window assuming that they will help us to meet our needs. These principles {all large dogs are dangerous} are provided by family, society and experience {bitten by large dog when a child}. Our principles lead us to create rules {If a large dog is in my vicinity, then change my location} and implement behavior {never enter a home that has a large dog} that has results in our lives {wont go to supervisors holiday party}.

The class pulls off its belief windows, examines the principles and asks, "Are our principles correct?" The answer is yes, if they promote behavior that meets our needs in the long term.

The only visible part of the model is our behavior. If we observe that our actions do not meet our needs over time, then we know that we have an incorrect principle and must substitute one that produces productive behavior.

An example

A student tells us that he is failing math because the professor is boring, mumbles, never smiles, and doesnt like me. The student looks at his belief window and discovers a principle that is:

"I cant pass a course if I dont like the professor."

This student believes that passing the course is totally in the control of the professor and out of his control. A substitute principle suggested by the MEP class was:

"I can pass a class when I dont like the professor, but it is going to take more work."

This leads to behavior that might include sitting in on another lecture, getting old exams, or seeking help from students who passed the course last semester.

Electronic Component

The students who mastered this model were required, as part of the class, to write at least one e-mail letter "home" (home to MEP) each week. The choice of topics rested with the students. Consistently, they discussed in a very personal and thoughtful manner their own belief windows. One student wrote "I have been trying to take off my belief window and see whats on it. This process was hard for me."

I respond to each letter and am privileged to see a side of my students that they do not reveal in class.


I have taught the Intro to Engr course for nine years¾ three with Landis text. Since I introduced the Control Model, the classroom demeanor, attendance, and student work ethic has improved markedly. Many students have started to read the text prior to any assignments. I believe that they are now "coachable" and ready to substitute some of their incorrect belief window principles with wisdom, not only that gained from the text but also from other sources such as what they learn from successful students.


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Success 101 is published twice yearly (Dec 1 and May 1). We are seeking articles for the Spring 1997 issue. Deadline March 1, 1997. Submissions may range from very short (e.g. quotes, exercises, activities) to up to two pages in the newsletter (opinion pieces, success stories, letters to the editor). Submit (preferably by e-mail) to:

Success 101
c/o Raymond B. Landis
School of Engr and Technology
Cal State L.A.
Los Angeles, CA 90032
Telephone: (213) 343-4500
Fax: (213) 343-4555
E-mail: [email protected]


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