STEM Central

A Community of Practice for NSF STEM Projects

Engaging Early Engineering Students (EEES) at Michigan State University and Lansing Community College

Implementation of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) has significantly influenced career goals, social skills, and sense of community among the student tutors. The Connector Faculty project indicates that the College of Engineering is experiencing a shift in culture in terms of student-faculty interactions.

Engaging Early Engineering Students (EEES) at Michigan State University and Lansing Community College

Undergraduate STEM student enrollment has declined substantially over the last decade. Specifically there has been a steady decline in retention of early engineering students working through the first half of their degree programs. Student “leavers” typically fall into two categories (i) those that are facing academic difficulties and (ii) those that perceive the education environment of early engineering as hostile and not engaging (Bernold, Spurlin, 2007; Seymour, 2002; Seymour and Hewitt, 1997). The Engaging Early Engineering Students Project (EEES) highlights a collaborative effort between Michigan State University (MSU) and Lansing Community College (LCC). The project aims to increase retention at the College of Engineering at Michigan State University. The project has four content programs: (a) a program to provide formative assessments in key courses (gateway exams) with follow-on tutorials, (b) a Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) program based on supplemental instruction (SI) model (c) a Connector Faculty (CF) program to directly engage engineering faculty with early engineering students, and (d) a program to develop and exploit course material from one key course to another thereby enabling a "program view" by our students instead of the more typical "course silo view". In the sections below we highlight some results from specific programs. PAL at MSU and SI at LCC • At LCC, SI is well attended and appears to have significantly positive effect on learning outcomes in most pre-engineering courses. • At MSU, PAL is poorly attended and appears to have no significant effect on learning outcomes in most pre-engineering courses. Connector Faculty (CF) program: • The modal response to a question of overall evaluation of the CF program on a scale of excellent/good/fair/poor was “good” (51% of the respondents who had participated). • Students who actually met with CF face-to-face at least once averaged 70% approval vs. 48% for those who didn’t meet at all. More face time higher approval. • Seventy-nine of CF students indicate that they think I would be accepted to the college of engineering, compared to 77% for the non-CF students. • Non-CF students were almost twice as likely as CF students to say they would choose another major (14% vs. 8%) CF seems to be reducing potential “leavers” Gateway Exams: Gateway exams are good diagnostic tools to predict final course grades in the target courses. We are in the process of developing follow up tutorials and other intervention strategies.

One of the main challenges of a project of this size remains to determine by objective outcomes measures the effectiveness of each of our component programs, and beyond that to determine synergisms between the programs. We have tentatively established a structural equation model (SEM) that will be used to this end.

Lead Author

  • Colleen A. McDonough


Name Organization
Daina Briedis, Neeraj Buch, Jon Sticklen Michigan State University
Renee Degraaf, Ruth Heckman, Louise Paquette Lansing Community College
Mark Urban-Lurain, Claudia E. Vergara, Thomas F. Wolff Michigan State University

Institution Information

  • Name: Michigan State University
  • State: MI

Poster Information

  • ID: TF-005
  • Disciplinary Focus: Engineering
  • Award Number: 0757020
  • Project Year 5+