A program to improve learning and retention of first year engineering students

Document Type

Conference Presentation


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Conference Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings

Date of Presentation



Analysis of retention data in engineering programs at the Pacific School of Engineering and Computer Science revealed that only 45 to 50 percent of students entering as freshmen actually graduated from engineering programs in 2003 and 2004, and that up to 30 percent had left during their first year. A new program implemented in Fall 2005 is focused on improving retention of, and the quality of learning by first year engineering students. The program has been integrated within the context of the core "Introduction to Engineering" course taken by all engineering majors, leveraging the small school environment found at Pacific. Program components include a peer mentoring/tutoring program, math assessment tests, informal gatherings and guest speakers, field trips, and support of student chapters of professional engineering organizations' activities that promote student participation. The main component of the program is the peer mentoring/tutoring program. Sixteen students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, each serve as mentors to six to eight first year students. First year students are required to meet with their mentor for special review of engineering and math assignments, development of curriculum plans and time management plans, among other tasks. Specific attention is being given to students from populations traditionally underrepresented in engineering. The overarching objective of the program is to not only familiarize first year students with the engineering discipline but also to integrate them into the School quickly. Program effectiveness will be measured with a set of outcome indicators, most notably retention, but also including other factors such as performance on assessment tests, performance in subsequent courses, and eventually, graduation rates. Outcome indicator data will be compared to statistics from the past three to five years. Preliminary results of this on-going program will be presented at the conference. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2006.

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