This is the seventh issue of Success 101. Its purpose is to provide a forum for engineering and engineering technology faculty and administrators, student service staff, and minority engineering program staff to share ideas about conducting an Introduction to Engineering or Introduction to Engineering Technology course that will significantly enhance students’ success. Articles that appeared in the first six issues of Success 101 can be found on the Discovery Press web page: www.discovery-press.com.
When my text Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career came out in June, 1995, there was the "good news" and the "bad news." The good news was that my book had no competition. There was no text like it on the market. The bad news was that the market for my book was limited. Engineering education for the most part operated on the "sink or swim" paradigm. Most engineering programs placed little or no emphasis in their curriculum on student development and therefore had no place for a book like mine. I'm pleased to say that the "news" has changed on both accounts.
Now my book has competition. It seems like everyday I receive a new engineering "student success" text. Those that I have seen include Engineering Success by Peter Schiavone, The Engineering Student Survival Guide by Krista Donaldson, Majoring in Engineering by John Garcia, Is There an Engineer Inside You? by Celeste Baine, and Engineering Your Future by William C. Oakes et al. Each of these recently published texts contains valuable material and I'm sure that more such texts are on the way. The market will decide which of these best meets the needs of engineering students.And the bad news has changed as well. The market for these books has grown. Over the past five years, my text has been used by over 300 institutions. The success of Studying Engineering and the fact that so many new engineering student success books are coming out indicate that more and more engineering colleges are recognizing that an Introduction to Engineering course having a primary focus on "student development" can improve the academic performance and retention of their students. Let's all work to keep this "movement" going.
CALL FOR PAPERS
Success 101 is published twice yearly (May 1 and December 1) and mailed to approximately 3,000 engineering and engineering technology educators. We are seeking articles for the Spring, 2000 issue.
Deadline March 15, 2000
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 or on disk) to:
c/o Dr. Raymond B. Landis
School of Engineering and Technology
California State University, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90032
Telephone: (323) 343-4500
You are invited to visit the Discovery Press web page (www.discovery-press.com). The web page contains various resources designed to support instructors of “student success” courses for engineering and engineering technology students. These include the following:
1. Information on how to order Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career and Studying Engineering Technology: A Blueprint for Success.
2. Chapter 2 of Studying Engineering (Chapter can be downloaded and copied for distribution). High school students, teachers, and counselors can be referred to this chapter for “guidance” on engineering as a career.
3. All articles in past issues of Success 101
Spring 1996, Issue #1
Fall 1996, Issue #2
Spring 1997, Issue #3
Fall, 1997, Issue #4
Fall, 1998, Issue #5
Fall, 1999, Issue #6
4. ASEE papers by R. B. Landis:
"Improving Student Success Through a Model Introduction to Engineering Course," Proceedings of 1992 ASEE Annual Conference, June 1992.
"Student Development: An Alternative to 'Sink or Swim,'" Proceedings of 1994 ASEE Annual Conference, June 1994.
"Building Student Commitment to Engineering," Proceedings of 1995 ASEE Annual Conference, June, 1995.
"Enhancing Engineering Student Success: A Pedagogy for Changing Behaviors," Proceedings of 1997 ASEE Annual Conference, June, 1997.
"Enhancing Engineering Student Success: Working with Students to Change Their Attitudes," Proceedings of 1998 ASEE Annual Conference, June, 1998.
"Improving Engineering Guidance: Introduction to Engineering for High School Teachers and Counselors," Proceedings of 1999 ASEE Annual Conference, June, 1999.
5. Sample syllabus of Cal State L.A. course, ENGR 100, Introduction to Engineering from Spring, 1999.
6. Links to sample syllabi from Introduction to Engineering courses at other universities.
Success Courses for Beginning
Engineering Technology Students: Part II - Course Design
by Stephen R. Cheshier, Southern Polytechnic State University
[Note: This article is excerpted from a paper by the same title, Proceedings of the 1999 ASEE Annual Conference. Part I of this article appeared in the spring, 1999 issue of Success 101. In Part I, the need for "student success" courses for first year engineering technology students was presented. In Part II that follows, the course design is discussed.]
Designing an Academic Success Course for ET Students
Of course the first step in designing a course is to realize that one is needed and will pay dividends in student success far out of proportion to the time spent on it. I suggest that it be a requirement for all entering ET students. It is common that such courses are offered at the departmental level so that some program specific information can be included, but the course works just as well if offered to a mixture of all ET students without regard to intended major (after all, students change their major, and most of the material can apply to all technically-oriented students).
What material should be included in an academic success course for ET students? In the broadest sense, there are several areas that seem essential.
"What It Takes" to be Successful Academically
We have all seen poorly prepared students succeed and well-prepared students fail after enrolling in our programs. I believe the difference is to a small extent innate ability, but to a larger extent motivation, planning, and effort. We can help students assess their abilities and interests and guide them in overcoming their deficiencies, thus preparing them to successfully complete their program. This area could include such things as an overview of how important it will be for them to learn to think critically and to analyze and solve problems, to develop solid technical skills, to learn to communicate effectively, to develop a strong work ethic, to learn to work well with others, and to become literate in using the tools of technology (e.g. computers).
The Profession of Engineering Technology
This subject should be covered early in an orientation course since most new ET students really have little understanding of their anticipated career field. There is much that could be discussed on this subject. Topics might include the opportunities and rewards of a technical career (job satisfaction, challenging work, financial security, benefiting society, professional work environments, fulfillment, prestige, etc.), what is engineering technology and how does it differ from other related technical fields, and an overview of the various ET disciplines. This might be followed by discussions (possibly involving alumni or industrial partners) about projected employment opportunities in major types of industries. Job categories typically found within industry, as well as consulting and entrepreneurship, should also be discussed. Since today's students will be working well into the 21st century, ET fields that show promise for the future should also be emphasized.
The Engineering Technology Educational Process
It is important for students early on to learn to "navigate" through the educational process. I believe that it is important to cover (at least briefly) the historical development of engineering technology education. Since it is often confused with engineering education, this is a time to clarify how the two developed differently in our academic institutions. This section of a course could also provide the opportunity to discuss departmental and school policies and procedures, the advising process, curricular planning and course registration, and the role of faculty and administration.
Academic Success Strategies
This may be the most important area of all in terms of its potential to affect retention and student achievement. It has been my observation over the years that ET students have not given much thought to developing the academic skills they will need if they are to be successful. These are skills that can be learned, but that most of us learned "the hard way" through good or bad experiences, or perhaps never learned at all.
Topics such as setting realistic goals, "programming" yourself for success, making decisions about part-time work, living arrangements and other outside activities, learning to seek help when it is needed (rather than weeks too late), interacting effectively with faculty, utilizing campus support resources, developing effective learning strategies, and time management are all useful to cover and discuss. A very important topic is helping students understand the importance of effective study habits and skills. Many ET students simply do not know how to study for results. Subjects ranging from how long to study, to how to identify important content, to how to take tests should be included. There are excellent resources available in this area, and faculty can often get good support in teaching study skills from the campus student support staff.
The Importance of Acquiring Educational Breadth
Someone once said that an education is what remains after you have forgotten the information that you learned in college. While this is not literally true, there is a lot to be said for not becoming too focused upon the major discipline such that much of educational value is overlooked. Presentations in this area might include subjects like choosing technical and non-technical electives wisely, participating in student organizations (general interest and professional), considering co-op or internships to get first-hand experience, or doing community volunteer work based upon knowledge learned in school.
Other subjects (although they could be addressed later in the program) might include conducting an effective job search, participating in student competitions, completing a meaningful senior project, mentoring or helping other students, etc.
Going hand-in-hand with acquiring educational breadth is the area of personal development. All of us have acquired habits and traits that we should change, but few of us do change without bringing the need into focus. Students could learn, perhaps with the help of colleagues in the school's counseling center, such things as behavior modification, self awareness and understanding (e.g. self esteem, their learning style, personality type, under-standing and getting along with others), and assessing their individual strengths and weaknesses.
An area that we must recognize as critical for our students' future is lifelong learning. Technology is simply changing too fast for students' formal education to be viewed as being complete. Of course, helping them prepare for either graduate school or employment is important, but even more so is the need to help our students develop independent learning strategies.
Individual faculty may decide that only certain of these (or other) topics are important, and they may plan their courses or topics accordingly. Some may choose to supplement those topics chosen with other "hard" topics (e.g., computing, graphics, design, etc.). I believe that some systematic coverage of at least the first four areas discussed above to be the minimum content for an ET student success course.
Faculty can get help in preparing for such a course through a variety of printed resources (including the author's text Studying Engineering Technology), NSF sponsored short courses (see page xx), the Freshman Year Experience program, and others. And there are student success support resources available on each campus.
While I understand the hesitancy of some faculty to spend time on so called "soft" topics, especially devoting an entire course (of even one semester hour) to them, I earnestly believe that the time spent on this or similar material will pay great dividends in both retention and student achievement. I also believe that it is important for students to have a solid understanding of their career field and their specific discipline. This material is difficult to learn anecdotally, and even if it is learned that way, there will often be misinformation involved. A formal course (or portion of a course) taught by a knowledgeable instructor avoids this problem. I cannot think of anything that could be done in another one-credit course that could have the potential to make such a difference in student success. If you have such a course, I hope you will agree, and if you do not, give it a try!
Enrollment is declining and retention is poor in many of the nation's engineering technology programs. With the country's increasing dependence on "things technological," it is important to attract, support, retain, and graduate greater number of ET students. Unfortunately, most prospective ET students do not come to college prepared to take full advantage of our fine academic programs. Having them attempt to complete 120 or so semester hours of rigorous collegiate work without an adequate strategy or perhaps even the tools to predict success, seems to put even academically well prepared students at a disadvantage. It may even put marginally prepared or marginally motivated students at so great a disadvantage that they become casualties of the program.
I contend that if faculty have the desire to more fully support beginning students, then a short, well structured "academic success" course early in their academic career is an effective way to accomplish this goal.
Resources are available so that such a course need not be difficult to organize and implement, and the limited contact time means that it need not be intrusive in already crowded technical curricula. As our programs seek to broaden their appeal to non-traditional populations and students with a wide variation in their academic preparation and life experiences, clearly time spent in helping them develop better success skills will be time well spent.
What Kind of Sculptors are We?
The following quotes provided by Dr. Michael Kelly, Cal State L.A. Northrop Grumman Engineering Endowed Chair, suggest the role of an instructor in an Introduction to Engineering course:
Ordinary sculptors work to create something new in the stone. Michelangelo sought to discover and draw out what was already in the stone.
Managers need to discover what is within people and to draw out the best from each person.
Teachers need to do the same thing.
Multiple Choice Exams for Studying Engineering
(Now available as attached e-mail files)
Ray Landis has prepared three 25-question multiple choice exams for instructors to use with his text Studying Engineering. The first exam covers Chapters 1 and 2; the second exam covers Chapters 3 and 4; and the third exam covers Chapters 5 and 6.
To receive copies of the three exams and solution key, send an e-mail request to: [email protected] Exams and solution key will be sent to you as attached files by return e-mail. Having the exams as electronic files will allow you to manipulate and modify them.
Although essay and short answer exams would be more effective in measuring students’ comprehension and retention of the material in the text, the multiple choice exams provide a tool for the instructor to use (without excessive grading time demands) to motivate students to take assignments to read the text seriously.
The following are four "implementation exercises" that you can use to make a significant difference in the success of your students. These exercises will be most effective when implemented in an Introduction to Engineering course, but they can also be implemented in other engineering courses, summer bridge or summer orientation programs, or in one-on-one mentoring of individual students. [Note: Suggestions as to how to accomplish each of these exercises are provided and can be found on the Discovery Press web page: www.discovery-press.com in the specific references to ASEE papers and articles from past issues of Success 101.]
Implementation Exercise #1 - Community Building
Your students are each other's most valuable resource. Build the students in your class into a learning community by going as far as you can through the following three steps.
a. Socialization - Conduct name learning exercises to ensure that every student in the class knows the name (first and last) of every other student. (See article "The Name Game: It's All in How You Do It," Success 101, Issue #5, Spring, 1998, page 11)
b. Group building - Develop a commitment on the part of your students to a high level of mutual support by teaching them the value they represent to each other. (See article on "Group Building" in Success 101, Issue #3, Spring, 1997, page 5)
c. Human relations training - Help your students develop the interpersonal communication skills necessary to interact with each other in a positive and effective manner. (See article on "Human Relations Training," Success 101, Issue #2, Fall, 1996, page 13)
Assess your effectiveness by noting any impact on attendance, energy level of the class, attention to homework, number of questions asked by students in class, and other sought after student behaviors.
Implementation Exercise #2 - Strengthening Students' Commitment to Success in Engineering Study
Develop a strategy for assessing the strength of your students' commitment to success in engineering. Implement four strategies that will be effective in strengthening your students' commitment to success in engineering study:
a. Guide a process of "goal clarification" in which each of your students answers the question "Why do I want to be an engineer?" by identifying and internalizing the rewards and opportunities that will come to them through success in engineering study. (See article on "Rewards and Opportunities," Success 101, Issue #2, Fall, 1996, page 13)
b. Help your students develop an articulate answer to the question they are often asked "What is engineering?" Students are embarrassed when they can't explain their field of study and career choice to others.
c. Guide your students through a process of learning as much about engineering as possible, including the various academic disciplines, job functions, and industry sectors. (See "Building Students' Commitment to Engineering" and article on "Exposure to Industry" in Success 101, Issue #6, Spring, 1999, page 13)
d. Have your students' layout a plan for completing their entire engineering program. Having a "roadmap" for achieving a goal can be motivating and increase commitment.
Assess whether you were successful in strengthening your students' commitment to success in engineering study.
Implementation Exercise #3 - Changing Students' Behaviors
Identify one or more behaviors that you believe your students are not practicing but you believe would enhance their success if they did. You can either come up with the behaviors yourself, ask your students to come up with them, or use one or more of the "success" behaviors presented below:
Examples of key success behaviors
i. Time on task - Students devote an appropriate amount of time and effort to their studies.
ii. Time management - Students schedule their study time so that they master the material presented in each class session before the beginning of the next class session.
iii. Peer interaction - Students frequently share information with their peers and regularly engage in group study and collaborative learning.
iv. Interaction with faculty - Students interact regularly with their professors both in the classroom and outside of it, positively and with benefit.
v. Preparation for lectures - Students prepare for each lecture in their key classes and get more out of the lectures as a result.
vi. Time on campus - Students spend as much time as possible on campus to take full advantage of the resources available to them.
Implement a sound approach designed to change several specific behaviors by giving your students an opportunity to experience the efficacy of each behavior. (See "Enhancing Student Success: A Five Step Process for Getting Students to Study Smart," ASEE PRISM, November, 1997, page 30 or "Pedagogy for Changing Behaviors," Success 101, Issue #3, Spring, 1997, page 2)
Assess whether students are practicing the behaviors you worked on with them.
Implementation Exercise #4 - Changing Students' Attitudes
Work with students to change their attitudes to those that will bring about the "success behaviors" described above. Utilize the following steps (See article "Enhancing Student Success: Working with Students to Change their Attitudes").
a. Identify key areas in which your students' attitudes (positive or negative) will have a significant impact on their academic success.
b. Assist students in becoming "conscious" of the attitudes (both positive and negative) they hold in each of these areas.
c. For each attitude, have students answer the question: "Is this attitude working for me (positive attitude) or against me (negative attitude)?
d. For each negative attitude, have students answer the question: "Why do I hold this attitude?" (i.e., What is its source?)
e. Have students answer the question: "Can I change the attitudes that are not working for me (negative attitudes) to ones that will work for me (positive attitudes)?
Assess whether you have brought about significant changes in your students' attitudes. Did the changes you brought about in their attitudes lead to changes in their behaviors?
IMPEC (Integrated Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, and Chemistry) was an experimental first-year engineering curriculum funded by the National Science Foundation through the SUCCEED Coalition. The curriculum integrated the first two calculus courses, the first semester of chemistry, the first semester of physics (mechanics), and a one-credit engineering course in each semester. The objectives of the engineering courses were: 1) to serve the traditional orientation functions of the freshman engineering course; 2) to provide real-world motivation and context for the science and mathematics fundamentals taught in the core freshman courses; and 3) to provide training in critical success skills
Professors Ernie Burniston (mathematics), Philip Dail (chemistry), John Gastineau (physics), Bob Beichner (physics), Leonard Bernold (civil engineering) and I put everything any of us knew about effective teaching into the design and delivery of IMPEC. Besides subject integration and team-teaching, we used active learning in the classroom and cooperative learning for assignments, Harvard calculus, hands-on physics, and chemistry simulations augmenting the traditional experiments. All of the courses provided training and practice in word processing, spreadsheets, presentation graphics, and symbolic mathematics software, and the engineering course included writing assignments, design projects in each semester, and critical success skill development. Once a week the faculty met to discuss what we would do in the following week, when we would teach separately and when we would come together for multidisciplinary “workshops” on specified topics, and how to deal with student problems that occasionally arose.
In the first year of the program (1995/96), we formed a control group of students who had volunteered for IMPEC but could not be accepted because of the enrollment limitation, and we also compared performance results for the IMPEC students with results for all students in the standard freshmen engineering course (E100). In the second year (1996/97), we compared the IMPEC students with students in E100 and in a special freshman course (E497) that included some skill development but no subject integration. The assessment measures included percentages passing all of the science and mathematics courses, performance on common final examination questions, performance on the Hestenes test in physics (an instrument taken by freshman physics students all over the country), and responses on the Pittsburgh Freshman Engineering Attitudes Survey (Besterfield-Sacre, M.E. and Atman, C.J., "Survey Design Methodology: Measuring Freshman Attitudes about Engineering," 1994 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings, Edmonton, Canada) administered at the beginning and end of the first semester. There were no significant differences in average pre-college admission criteria between the IMPEC students and the students in the comparison groups.
Assessment and Evaluation
The principal assessment results are as follows. "Pass" denotes earning a grade of C or better.
· In the first year, 69 percent (25/36) of the IMPEC students passed all four core courses, as compared with 52 percent (16/31) of the control group and 53 percent (489/930) in E100 (p<.01). In the second year 78 percent (28/36) of the IMPEC students passed all four courses, as compared with 50 percent (176/349) in E100 and 50 percent (102/206) in E497 (p<.01).
· The percentages of IMPEC women passing all four courses were 60 percent in the first year (6/10) and 67 percent in the second year (4/6). The percentages passing were 100 percent (5/5) for the control group, 45 percent (107/237) for E100 (Year 1), 41 percent (24/58) for E100 (Year 2), and 46 percent (27/58) for E497. 100 percent of the African-American students in IMPEC passed in each year (5/5 in Year 1, 4/4 in Year 2), as opposed to 29 percent (34/117) and 21 percent (25/118) in the standard freshman engineering program. The IMPEC sample sizes were too small for the level of significance of these results to be meaningful.
· There were no significant differences in performance of the different groups on common final examination questions in chemistry, physics, and calculus, although we are quite sure that there would have been if we had been allowed to include high-level open-ended questions and questions requiring integrated knowledge on the standard course examinations. The IMPEC students performed at a significantly higher level on the Hestenes physics test than the national average for traditionally-taught physics courses. (The students in our comparison groups did not take this test.) We also have a wealth of anecdotal data regarding the superior performance of the IMPEC students on tasks requiring high-level thinking, engineering design, computer skills, and courses that were not part of IMPEC.
· In March 1999, 64 percent (23/36) of the Year 1 IMPEC students and 67 percent (24/36) of the Year 2 IMPEC students had successfully matriculated and were still enrolled in engineering. We do not have the comparable statistics for the comparison groups, but retention after the first two years is generally well below 50 percent.
· The greatest differences between the IMPEC students and the comparison groups were revealed in the results from the Pittsburgh Attitudes Survey. The IMPEC students gained confidence in their abilities in chemistry, calculus, physics, engineering problem-solving, writing skills, oral presentation skills, and computer skills after each of the first two semesters. The average confidence levels for the comparison groups decreased over the course of the first semester in chemistry and engineering problem-solving, and decreased in all categories but physics for the Year 1 control group. (No data for the comparison groups were available for physics, which was taken in the second semester.) The differences between IMPEC and the comparison groups were statistically significant (p<.05) in all categories but writing.
· Relative to the comparison groups, the IMPEC students maintained more positive attitudes toward the engineering profession and felt more challenged, but complained less about the demands of the curriculum.
The success of the IMPEC program in improving academic performance, confidence levels, and attitudes is impressive, but it is difficult to know how much of it can be attributed to the individual pedagogical methods included in the course (subject integration, active/cooperative learning, hands-on experimentation in the classroom, etc.) and how much was due to the curriculum being taught to a relatively small class by a group of highly motivated instructors. There can be no conclusive resolution of this question, but a clue is provided by the Pittsburgh Attitude Survey. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, the principal designer of the survey, has for several years compiled results from a number of U.S. Engineering Schools. In her initial findings, IMPEC was the only freshman program for which students generally reported an increase in confidence levels and more positive attitudes to engineering after the first semester of engineering. In subsequent findings, several programs (a small minority of the total number) showed the same result. A common feature of these programs was subject integration. Integration may not be a sufficient condition for augmenting success in the first year of engineering, but it clearly can go a long way toward this end.
What is required to make integration work?
Based on our experience with IMPEC, the primary requirement for successful curriculum integration is a dedicated team of competent and compatible instructors who share a vision of what they want the curriculum to be and agree on how to achieve this vision. Meeting this requirement in turn requires adequate incentives for faculty members to participate and adequate compensation for doing so. Teaching in an integrated curriculum requires faculty members to do everything they would have to do if they were teaching a traditional course and considerably more by way of planning and coordination. Imposing the additional work on faculty members who do not fully subscribe to the concept is not likely to lead to productive results, and mandating participation without additional compensation is probably a prescription for failure. If teams that meet the specified criteria are formed, however, the rewards to both students and instructors can be substantial.
We are pleased to announce a new NSF-sponsored Chautauqua short course specifically designed to prepare engineering technology faculty to be effective in enhancing the success of first-year engineering technology students. Join other engineering technology faculty in a three-day short course to share and learn strategies and approaches for improving the academic performance and retention of your students.
This course will be offered:
April 26-28, 2000 at the University of Dayton Conference Center, Dayton, Ohio.
Participants will learn the content and pedagogy for accomplishing important objectives under five key themes:
1. Community Building
2. Professional Development
3. Academic Development
4. Personal Development
The course should be of interest to 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 course will be co-facilitated by Dr. Stephen R. Cheshier, President Emeritus at Southern Polytechnic University, Dr. Barbara Anderson, of Southern Polytechnic University, and Dr. Raymond B. Landis, Dean of Engineering and Technology at California State University, Los Angeles.
The only cost for attending the course is a $40 application fee. Participants will be responsible for their travel expenses and accommodations.
You may register on-line at:
www.engrng.pitt.edu/~chautauq (click on "On Line Application")
Registration by Mail or Fax
To register by mail or fax, contact:
Dr. George K Miner
Director, Chautauqua Field Center
Department of Physics
University of Dayton
Dayton, OH 45469-2314
Telephone: (937) 229-2327
Fax: (937) 229-2185
E-mail: [email protected]
I attended your Rosemead Chatauqua short course in spring, 1998. I then went before my curriculum committee in spring, 1999 with a proposal for a student-success-based Intro course and got approval! I’ll be offering the course for the first time this fall, using your text.
I thought you might like to know—there will be another voice in the California chorus supporting this course.
Merced (CA) College
Thank you for writing your wonderful book Studying Engineering. I used it last semester for my Introduction to the Engineering Profession course and had very positive feedback from the students. We plan to use it from now on.
Please e-mail me the three multiple-choice exams that were recently advertised in the Success 101 newsletter. Thank you for your time.
Dan Justice, Ph.D.
Metropolitan Community Colleges
Kansas City, Missouri
You are great! My first week back from your Chautauqua course and the Engineering Liaison Committee, I used your “name game” in my intro course. I then used it again during the second meeting with different groups. I brought up the idea of using the name game using your pedagogy steps. It worked! I’m finally building a community.
This summer I will revamp my introductory engineering course curriculum to include the other items. I have already decided what I'm getting rid of.
Thanks for sending the exams and key. I appreciate the support and continue to commend you for an excellent approach to engineering education. I believe this is a productive approach to generating interest in engineering careers. I would like to see this integrated or made available in the K-12 system as part of career studies. Maybe the ideas would intrigue younger students and help them better prepare for college.
Oregon Institute of Technology
Editor’s Note: Your point about reaching students early is well taken. California’s MESA program has long been working to attract and prepare students for college-level math, engineering, and science studies; and similar programs can be found throughout the country. As Dean of the School of Engineering and Technology at Cal State L.A., I have initiated extensive K-12 outreach activities, including a biannual ARCO-funded course that brings together science/math teachers and counselors from our feeder high schools to learn about engineering. For more information about this course, see my ASEE paper "Improving Engineering Guidance: Introduction to Engineering for High School Teachers and Counselors" on the Discovery Press web page.
I am a Computer Engineering major at the University of Illinois at Chicago and one of the many students who read and loved your book, Studying Engineering. Your book is excellent and well suited for introducing students to engineering. Thank you for writing it.
You make one point in the book, however, that I disagree with. On page 4 you write: “Start by making graduation in engineering your primary life goal,” and throughout the book you encourage students to make school their #1 priority in life. I feel that even though engineering school does consume the majority of one’s time, it should not be a student’s primary goal. Basically, “living” should be one’s primary goal, like tending to one’s personal responsibilities, helping neighbors in need, and supporting family and friends. Students need to remember that school is just a means to an end; it is not an end, nor is it a primary life goal.
Sometimes, especially in engineering school, students get these priorities confused. With the constant pressure of grades, high GPAs, and uncertain futures, some are driven to suicide, suffer severe depression, or exhibit anti-social behaviors.
If I’m wrong, help me get the right viewpoint. Thanks for your time.
University of Illinois at Chicago.
Editor’s Response: Your compliments about my book and your close reading of it are very much appreciated. I am particularly touched when a student (like yourself) takes the time to write a note—whether the comments are positive or negative—since YOU are my primary audience.
Regarding my point about “making graduation in engineering your primary life goal,” I certainly agree with what you say. “Living one’s life,” as you describe it, inevitably requires people to adjust their priorities—including one’s commitment to engineering studies. I am also deeply troubled to think that students might take their studies to such extremes that they end up hurting themselves, and possibly others. But these are not the students I am addressing on page 4 (and elsewhere) in my book. Emotionally fragile students and/or students who face life-altering situations (which preclude them from pursuing an engineering career) comprise a quite small contingent of the country’s engineering students.
My message is for the vast majority of students who have every skill, talent, and promise to earn their B.S. degrees in engineering—but who don’t make it. Why? Because they put other priorities ahead of their engineering studies. For these students, recreation, sports, entertainment, college activities, friends, jobs—even some family matters—take precedence over a lab report or calculus exam. And so they drop out or fail. I've had many of these students visit me over the years and express deep regret that they didn't get their education when they had the chance.
Hello, Mr. Landis. My name is Lotten Mthombeni, a first year electrical engineering student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. I read your book, Studying Engineering. You really helped a lot particularly in the area of setting goals in life. I often heard people talking about it and it became so familiar, but I never took it serious until I read your book. I try by all means to put what you said in your book into practice, like being an involved student.
Lotten Mthombeni, Student
University of Cape Town
I have been a fan of yours ever since I read your book two years ago. This coming fall, I will use it in my Intro to Engr course for the third consecutive year.
I have been teaching engineering courses at a small community college in northern Minnesota for the past six years. I subscribe to many of the ideals that you list in your book and "preach" them to my students. Since arriving in 1993 our engineering enrollment has grown from 18 to 130 and our students and graduates are having great successes.
Ronald Ulseth, P.E.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
As the old man walked the beach at dawn, he noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally catching up with the youth, he asked him why he was doing this. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish," countered the other. "How can your effort make any difference?" The young man looked at the starfish in his hand, and then threw it to safety in the waves. "It makes a difference to this one," he said.
Submitted by Jim Miner
Western Illinois University
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.
This course will only be offered once during the 1999/2000 academic year:
March 23-25, 2000 at the Sheraton Rosemead Hotel in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Participants will learn the content and pedagogy for accomplishing five important objectives:
1. Building students into learning communities
2. Strengthening students' commitment to success in engineering study
3. Changing students' behaviors to those that are appropriate to success in math, science, engineering courses
4. Changing students' attitudes to those that produce success behaviors
5. Empowering students to take responsibility for their education
The course should be of interest to 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 course will be co-facilitated by Dr. Raymond B. Landis, Dean of Engineering and Technology at California State University, Los Angeles and Dr. Edward Prather, Assistant Dean of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
The only cost for attending the course is a $40 application fee. Participants will be responsible for their travel expenses and accommodations.
You may register on-line at:
www.engrng.pitt.edu/~chautauq (click on "On Line Application")
Registration by Mail or Fax
To register by mail or fax, contact:
Dr. Nicholas G. Eror
Department of Materials Science and Engr
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Telephone: (412) 624-9761
Fax: (412) 624-1108
I first learned of the concept of "Locus of Control" from my MEP Director Milton Randle. According to his article in the Fall, 1996 issue of Success 101, Locus of Control is a psychological term for the personality trait that explains how we attribute control in our lives. Internal locus of control means that we believe we are in charge of our life. External locus of control means that we believe that something or someone other than ourselves is in charge.
I suppose I always understood this idea. I just had a slightly different way of looking at it. My version of locus of control was ¾"Don't take 'no' for an answer." Once Milton taught me about locus of control, I had a nice framework for teaching students to take control of their lives. As one strategy for helping students understand these concepts, I share my favorite locus of control story with them as follows.
Several years after I became dean of engineering and technology at Cal State L.A., I began to realize that our thirty-year-old facilities needed renovating. So I went to the person on the campus who was in charge of major capital projects (let's call him "Mr. Ed") and asked him how could we go about getting funding to renovate our facilities. Mr. Ed told me "No chance." He said that priorities within the California State University System (a system of 23 public universities) were being placed on new construction at campuses where enrollment was growing. He said no funding was being provided for major renovation projects. I told him that I wasn't interested in his opinion of whether we could be successful, I was asking him "How? How do we go about proposing for major capital funds for renovating our facilities?" He told me we needed to write our case according to a specific format and submit it to him.
We did so, and, the next year when the list of major capital projects on our campus was published, our $31 million project was there, ranked #19 out of twenty. I went to Mr. Ed and after he told me that #19 had no chance of funding, I asked him how the ranking was done. He told me "You have no chance of moving up in the ranking and even if you did renovation projects were not being funded by the system." Again, I told him I was not interested in his opinion of whether we could move up in the ranking." I was asked him how the ranking was done. He told me the ranking was done by the Campus Physical Planning Committee and gave me a list of the committee membership.
I invited each member of the Campus Physical Planning Committee to come and look at our facilities. I explained how disadvantaged our students were to be educated in such outmoded facilities. The next year, we were ranked #3 on the list of campus major capital projects. Again, I went to Mr. Ed and after he told me that only if we were ranked #1 on the campus would we have any chance of being funded, I asked him "How can we become ranked #1?" He told me that there was little chance or no chance we could be ranked #1. He said that if the campus ranked such an expensive project as it's #1, it would risk getting no major capital funding from the System. Again, I told him all I wanted to know was what the process was for determining which project was ranked #1. He told me "It's decided by the President."
I must have had the President over to visit our facilities at least five times. I showed him our computer labs that were so hot (air conditioning was designed before computers) that even if we didn't care about the people, we had to shut them down because the machines couldn't take the temperature. I showed him where water poured into our building when it rained. And I told him I was tired of having alumni visit and point out equipment they had used when they were students more than twenty-five years before. I explained to him that it wasn’t right that our students had to use out-of-date equipment when engineering students at suburban campuses where enrollment was growing were being educated in new engineering buildings with the new, state-of-the art equipment bought with funding that accompanied new buildings.
The next year our project was ranked #1 on the campus and with the President's strong support and an effective presentation before representatives of the state government in Sacramento, we gained approval for our project. We are now in the middle of a three-phase $31 million renovation project (including $6.4 million for new equipment) that will be completed in April, 2000. At that point, we will have the finest undergraduate teaching laboratories, computer facilities, and instructional classrooms of any engineering program in the nation.
My students love to hear this story. Call it "Locus of Control" if you like. I call it "Don't take no for an answer." I'm sure in your career you have had successes that were the result of you taking control of your life. I hope you'll share your favorite "internal locus of control" story with your students. Through it, they will learn to take control of their lives.
A team is more than just several people working on a common project. There are major differences between individual work and teamwork. For example, to be an effective team member, one should have a desire to be a part of something that exceeds the limits of individual capabilities. One should have an interest in doing a job with a higher degree of social interaction than is required by individual work. One needs an interest in (or at least willingness to) receiving external criticism. Effective team members also want to learn by association with others who are perceived as being very knowledgeable. And they have a genuine interest in sharing their knowledge with others. Furthermore, a team approach to a project usually generates a greater degree of conflict than many people are accustomed to. Teams, more than individuals, have a much greater need for structured approaches.
Work done in the 1950's by Robert F. Bales ("In Conference," Harvard Business Review, 1954) indicated that in general, the optimum team size is five. Based on an IEEE recommendation (IEEE, Software Engineering Standards, October 1987), the optimum team size for an engineering project course is five. (Realistically, most projects on the job require more than 4 to 6 people and will be subdivided into several smaller working units.)
Bigger is not necessarily better, especially in an engineering team. The first reaction of students tends to be that if there are more people, each will have less work to do. However, in coordinating a project, communication is vital at all levels. The larger the team, the larger the number of lines of communication. This can quickly offset any advantage of having fewer subtasks per person. Another drawback of larger groups is that members find it more difficult to get to know one another. And sometimes in a larger group, there may be a problem if one member feels that his or her contribution doesn't matter, since there are so many others.
An Effective Team Environment
In order to work most effectively in a team effort, it is important that there be an atmosphere that encourages cooperation rather than competition. Team members must understand that their action (or inaction) affects the team effort, and this must supersede individual concern. Although classroom projects may (or may not) be graded on an individual basis, for most group efforts on the job, the group either succeeds or fails as a group.
Conflict among group members should not be seen as inherently a problem. Conflict is indicative of the introduction of a variety of ideas. This is a positive attribute of a group. However, there needs to be an established mechanism for conflict resolution and decision making. Conflict management is essentially a selection between alternative actions. In most projects, there is generally no one "right" way of doing things. Making a decision and getting on with the project is much more critical than arguing over whose ideas should be used.
Approaches for conflict resolution include compromise, forcing, avoidance, or confrontation. While compromise has great appeal in some situations, in engineering projects, it can reflect a tendency to avoid the real issue. The converse of this is forcing, where one person insists that it be done a particular way. Neither of these is particularly effective. Avoidance means ignoring the conflict; hoping it will go away. A moment's thought should indicate that there is no real solution in this, and worse, the avoidance process is a drain on the group energy.
As it turns out, confrontation is the most effective method of conflict resolution. By insisting that the group examine the areas of disagreement, differences are brought into the open. Discussion of different views is likely to bring out the best solution, and therefore one that will be acceptable to all parties. Once the alternatives are clearly defined, decisions can be made by voting if necessary.
Problems Typical to Group Work
There are some problems that typically come up in group work. One is dealing with a member who seems to be doing less than his or her share. Any perception of dissatisfaction on the part of the other group members can cause the guilty party to withdraw, resulting is the loss of a member to the group. A likely cause is that the person did not understand something. Helping the person can often get him or her to back into the group.
Another type of problem can arise when an individual is reluctant to express his or her opinion about something of concern to them because no one else has mentioned it ("Everyone else agrees to the proposed strategy so I guess it must be right."). Sometimes each group member can share the same reservation, but they all refrain from commenting. This has been referred to as groupthink, and has led to some major disasters, such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961 (Janis, Irving L., Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascos, Houghton Mifflin, 1982). It is important to teach students to express not only ideas, but also reservations and concerns.
Another common problem is group members who become competitive rather than cooperative. The result is endless arguments about technical details, where minor problems turn into power struggles. It is important to teach students that teamwork means cooperation.
Some Helpful Suggestions for Group Members
1. When somebody is talking, the other group members should not only listen, but also keep indicating their reactions actively. The speaker probably cannot read minds, and he or she needs the honest reaction, whether positive or negative, of the other group members.
2. The speaker should keep his or her eyes on the group, talking to the group as a whole (rather than to a crony or a special opponent.) The speaker should constantly watch for reactions to what he or she is saying.
3. When problems arise, one tactic to break off an argument is to backtrack to further work on the facts and direct experience. Sometimes it helps to go out and get more information before proceeding on a specific topic.
SUCCESS VS. HAPPINESS
Have your students discuss the relationship between "success" and "happiness." What do each of these terms mean? Are they the same thing? Does success bring happiness? Can people be happy if they are not successful?
Web addresses for sites containing information about Introduction to Engineering or Introduction to Engineering Technology courses, including syllabi. These will be linked from the Discovery Press web page: www.discovery-press.com. Send web addresses by e-mail to:
Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career, Second Edition,
by Raymond B. Landis,
will be available June, 2000
Discovery Press is pleased to announce that the Second Edition of Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career will be available in June, 2000.
Over 40,000 copies of the first edition of the text have been shipped since it was first published in June, 1995. An updated version of the text was issued in June, 1997. Over 300 institutions in the United States and Canada have adopted the text for use in Introduction to Engineering courses, summer bridge programs, and freshman orientations, with a number of institutions requiring it for use by their entire engineering freshman class. The text has also been well received by high school teachers and counselors and by high school students.
The Second Edition will represent a substantial revision of the First Edition with the following changes:
· All dated material will be updated
· An index will be added
· Web addresses will be greatly expanded
· New topics on student success strategies will be included
· Current topics will be rewritten to provide improved clarity
· New problems will be added at the end of each chapter
PAPER AIRPLANE CONTESTS
One obvious strategy for strengthening students' commitment to engineering is to provide them with exciting "hands-on" projects that are both fun and teach them basic engineering principles. The following is a review of a book that can provide you with lots of ideas for paper airplane projects and contests. The book is available through www.amazon.com.
The World Record Paper Airplane Book
by Ken Blackburn and Jeff Lammers
Workman Publishing Company, 1994
With the proper amount of lift, the thrust of a good throw, very little drag, and lots of stability, you might do it¾fly a paper airplane into the record books the way Ken Blackburn did.
Now this aerospace engineer and paper airplane world record-holder teams up with Jeff Lammers, a mechanical engineer, to create an everything you need resource for beginning and experienced flyers alike. Mixing science, innovation, and enthusiasm, The World Record Paper Airplane Book features 100 full-color, ready-to-fold airplanes (sixteen models, multiple copies of each), ranging from the simple to the sophisticated. Each airplane is easy to make and has numerically folded marks with illustrated step-by-step instructions. In addition, the book offers a wealth of information about aviation and flying: how planes work, how to perform tricks and fine-tune for speed, and how to stage contests. And to make your flight sessions more exciting, there's a full-color pullout landing strip for accuracy practice and a flight log to record your times. The World Record Paper Airplane Book will set you on an unforgettable aeronautical journey, whether you're an armchair pilot or aviation professional.
As Minority Engineering Programs (MEPs) focus their efforts on constructing the components of the MEP model to increase the retention and achievement of students, one often overlooked criteria is that of getting the students' buy in or commitment. This oversight leaves many MEP administrators frustrated over lack of student participation and in a state of second-guessing their effectiveness. This mistake is analogous to selling a product that no one is interested in buying. Recall the “new” Coca-Cola as one example of this strategy.
So how do you get the student to buy what you are selling? One approach is to let the data do the talking. You could give or show students comparative retention data and let them convince themselves that participating in academic activities is in their best interest. Another is to counsel the students and appeal to their intelligence and maturity.
It is logical to think that because students are declaring the same field of study (engineering) and that they will be enrolled in the same sections of mathematics, chemistry and language art courses, that they will naturally gravitate toward programs that offer collaborative learning activities, course clustering, study facilities and other retention strategies. The reality is that most students bring with them their own pre-conceived model of what college is like and how to go about succeeding in this arena.
The MEP at Colorado School of Mines (CSM) established their community building model by implementing collaborative learning through Academic Excellence Workshops (AEW), a study center, an exam simulation program, and a peer-mentoring program. The programs were adopted and used by the students. First and second year participation rates for all programs were at 50 percent. The next challenge was for the MEP to reach out and involve the remaining 50 percent of its population. The MEP model was refined and driven harder and this improved participation rates to 60 percent. After reviewing responses from student focus groups, the MEP staff decided that a method of engaging the students before they became overwhelmed by their first year in college had to be developed.
The Freshman Retreat
At the Colorado School of Mines, the MEP has enhanced a vehicle that allows for an interactive activity to expose students to success strategies. This vehicle is called the MEP Freshman Retreat. The Freshman Retreat allows MEP to "sell" the components of its academic resources to the students. In this fashion, MEP generates student excitement for its services and builds the foundation upon which the academic community rests.
The Retreat features six competitions that highlight collaborative learning, the need for an MEP, student development and maturity, academic programs, and professional development. The program uses successful returning students to serve as team coaches and officials. The coaches pass on peer knowledge about MEP and the University. The officials provide feed back on the student’s assignments throughout the Retreat. The MEP staff introduces topics from the text Studying Engineering by Ray Landis such as collaborative learning and community building, via brief workshops before each competition. These topics are reinforced and discussed in an in depth manner during the CSM 101 course in the fall semester.
After each workshop the student teams meet with their coaches to strategize and compete in the form of a skit or essay that examines and reveals thier motivation and commitment to being successful. The students also begin forming relationships that form the basis of their future learning community. The Retreat is one and a half days in length, with a fun awards ceremony at the end to crown the champion team.
Since the Retreats' inception in 1995, retention has increased to 92 percent and participation in the MEP program has grown to 85 percent for all its students. Minority student graduation rates and academic achievement have doubled. The most notable factor is the increased participation rate of minority students in MEP and the CSM community. These activities include the Academic Excellence Workshops (AEWs), community outreach projects, peer mentoring program, campus leadership positions, and use of the MEP and departmental study centers.
Attendance and participation for these activities are tracked and logged to be used during advising sessions and MEP program evaluations. Participation in AEWs was moderate in the fall of 1996 but this fall semester all AEWs are full and expansion is being explored. First year students request to be coaches and officials for next year’s freshman class. Another example of the leveraging effect of the interactive Freshman Retreat is during our CSM 101 course. This is CSM’s version of an “Introduction to Engineering” course and is a degree requirement. Due to the Retreat, the learning cohort is established before the first class meeting. Using techniques, such as the name game, is more animated because students are familiar with one another. This facilitates the forming of study groups and a highly interactive class setting especially during open discussion and student class presentations.
A follow-on program that focuses on internships and professional development has been created at the request of upper-class students who participated as freshman and as coaches and officials in subsequent years. The “Professional Development Weekend” is a one and a half-day event that is open to the first 150 students that sign up to participate. This program has filled the past three years within a month of opening enrollment. A final example of the impact of the Retreat is that MEP students readily participate in community outreach programs and corporate information sessions.
The interactive Freshman Retreat model has successfully been replicated by MEPs at other institutions such as UT Austin and Cal State L.A.
Suspension is a very important word in the College of Engineering. Civil engineers use suspension bridges to span wide and deep canyons, ravines, and other geological cracks in the Earth's surface. Mechanical engineers design suspension systems to smooth out the ride in cars and trucks. Petroleum and chemical engineers use suspensions to move sediments and other non-soluble materials with fluid flow. Finally, electrical engineers and computer scientists keep us in suspension as we await new developments in electronics and software. It should come as no surprise that the College of Engineering deals with student academic suspensions in unconventional and unique ways.
The College of Engineering has a policy where students who earn a suspension are suspended until they have developed an academic plan to prevent the reoccurrence of previous problems. Students who come to the dean's office and analyze the cause of their poor academic performance and who develop an academic contract to follow known strategies for success are allowed to continue their education at the next available opportunity, which might be the following semester. Students with known or strongly suspected interference factors, such as drug or serious alcohol usage, learning disabilities, emotional problems associated with grief and stress, financial problems, and medical problem of depression, manic depression cycles, low blood sugar, etc. are denied a contract until a positive action is taken by the student to solve or at least work around the problem. Our focus is to achieve a change in the process that leads to improved quality control in academic performance. Time allows processes to occur, but time does not cause a change in the process.
Among the suspended students we readmit, about 70 percent are successful in achieving a 2.0 GPA or better. We do have a small percentage of students who achieve success for one semester and then cycle back to poor behavior. If these students trip an additional suspension, they are denied re-entry to the College of Engineering. At this point, we have nothing new to improve academic performance, and we prefer that students with non-professional behavior not wear the title of a College of Engineering, Texas Tech University graduate. We are willing to suspend our rules under special cases where a department chair or faculty member assumes the responsibility to mentor and help the struggling student. We also suspend our rules when a respected faculty member from a junior or community college highly recommends the student return to our college based on a strong improvement in academic performance.
We recommend that other colleges suspend traditional views of suspension and develop a more sustainable academic policy. We believe this policy is supportive of our educational goal of starting the life long learning process.