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Title: Student Persistence Factors for Engineering and Computing Undergraduates
The research and evaluation team of an S-STEM project at a large, research-intensive Southeastern public university conducted a cross-sectional survey as a first step to compare factors which may influence undergraduate student persistence in engineering and computing. All engineering and computing students were invited to participate in the survey, and 282 (10.4%) provided responses. The respondents included 15 high financial need students who were participating in the S-STEM program, of which 7 were first-year students and 8 were sophomores. The remaining 267 respondents were undergraduates ranging from first-year to seniors. Survey questions were adapted from previously developed instruments on self-efficacy, sense-of-belonging, identity, community involvement, and overall college experience. Additional questions related to stress levels, academic life, use and effectiveness of academic supports, and the impacts of COVID-19 on their college experiences. The team compared responses by level of academic progression, declared major, gender, and race/ethnicity. Student responses showed a variety of similarities and differences between subgroups. Overall, the students said that they often attended lectures (in-person or online) and came to class prepared. At the same time, students rated these activities as the least effective academic supports. On the other hand, the students rated working assigned or extra homework problems and studying for exams as their most effective activities. Consistently among the subgroups, the students said their community involvement and identity as developing engineers were relatively low while self-efficacy and team self-efficacy were seen as stronger personal skills. The students said they were highly stressed about their grades and academic success in general, and about finances and future careers. They reported feeling less stress about aspects such as living away from home and negotiating the university social scene. Students reported spending the most time preparing for class in their first year compared to students in later years. Female students (104 responses) reported higher levels of community involvement, engineering identity, and engagement in college life compared to male students (142 responses) while there was little gender-related difference in self-efficacy and sense of belonging. Levels of self-efficacy and team self-efficacy did not show large differences based on year in college. Interestingly, first-year students expressed the highest levels of engineering identity while senior students the lowest. Senior students reported the lowest community involvement, sense of belonging, and engineering identity compared to other students. Overall, students from different races self-reported the same levels of self-efficacy. Black/African American students reported the highest levels of community involvement, college life, and identity. There were no substantial differences in self-efficacy among the different engineering and computing majors. This study is a first step in analysis of the students’ input. In addition to surveying the students, the team also conducted interviews of the participating S-STEM students, and analysis of these interviews will provide greater depth to interpretation of the survey results. Overall, the research and evaluation team’s intention is to provide insight to the project’s leadership in how best to support the success of first-year engineering and computing students.  more » « less
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ASEE Annual Conference
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Baltimore, MD
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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