Measuring the effects of precollege engineering education Conference

Salzman, N, Ohland, MW, Cardella, ME. (2014). Measuring the effects of precollege engineering education .

cited authors

  • Salzman, N; Ohland, MW; Cardella, ME


  • The deployment of co-curricular and extracurricular K-12 engineering programs has expanded dramatically in recent years. Many states now explicitly or implicitly include engineering as part of their education standards, reflecting the increasing acceptance of engineering at the K-12 level and its potential value to students. In addition to promoting outcomes that benefit all students regardless of career aspirations such as increased math and science achievement and greater technological literacy, K-12 engineering programs have been identified as a means of recruiting and retaining potential students in engineering. The growth of precollege engineering programs means that increasing numbers of incoming engineering students will have had some exposure to engineering prior to their enrollment in engineering programs. However, the impact of precollege engineering experiences on undergraduate engineering students is relatively unexplored. To address this lack of understanding, this study uses a mixed-methods exploratory approach to examine how exposure to precollege engineering programs affects the experiences of university engineering students. Phenomenographic interviews with cohorts of first year engineering students are currently being analyzed to identify the qualitatively different ways undergraduate engineering students experience the effects of precollege engineering. These results will then be used to develop an instrument to measure the extent of these effects in the larger population of undergraduate engineering students at multiple institutions. Although a limited number of prior studies have demonstrated that exposure to precollege engineering can have a positive impact on students' performance in undergraduate engineering programs, much less is known about how these programs increase achievement and how students utilize the knowledge and experience gained from participation in precollege engineering programs in their undergraduate engineering classes. This research seeks to address this gap by describing both the extent of alignment between precollege and university engineering programs as identified by students and how misalignments can negatively affect students' experiences and their decision to persist in a university engineering program. Examining the demographics of the participants will demonstrate who has access to or is taking advantage of precollege engineering programs, and if the effects of precollege engineering vary across different demographic groups. To date, most undergraduate engineering programs assume little to no formal exposure to engineering prior to matriculation. With the growth of precollege engineering programs, this is no longer a valid assumption. The results of this research will help engineering administrators, instructors and designers of undergraduate and precollege curricula adapt to students' changing needs and abilities. Research results will also guide undergraduate engineering programs in developing retention and instructional strategies to adapt to increasing numbers of students with engineering experiences prior to matriculation. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2014.

publication date

  • January 1, 2014