BOOST:Bridge Opportunities Offered for the Sophomore Transition
Current education research identifies a critical need for students to develop their "engineering identity." The literature points to solutions that help students explore engineering and encourage peer-to-peer as well as student-to-faculty interaction to promote early assimilation into engineering colleges. The College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology (ECST) at California State University Los Angeles (CSULA) has recently institutionalized a high school-to-freshman Summer Transition to ECST Program (STEP) to support engineering freshmen, a majority of whom are low-income, underrepresented minorities (URMs), and first-generation college students. STEP has successfully led to significantly higher levels of math and English placement, and yet, the ECST sophomores are no exception to the pervasive "sophomore slump" experienced nationwide. Unlike typical bridge programs, the Bridge Opportunities Offered for Sophomore Transition (BOOST) project will target engineering students transitioning between the freshman and sophomore years. BOOST will fit nicely between an existing college-funded freshman-to-sophomore bridge program, a first-year experience that will be created in ECST with new funding from the Chancellor's Office to reduce the achievement gap, and a grass-roots revamp of the sophomore engineering core. The literature identifies the large population of URM students that leave science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors as one of the main sources of potential STEM professionals. BOOST has the potential to create an innovative model for ensuring the success of rising URM sophomores in engineering. In addition to giving students a foretaste of engineering, BOOST will also provide community engagement, as well as career development opportunities, which are expected to motivate ECST's largely URM, first-generation engineering student body to persist and excel in engineering while ultimately positively impacting the nation's ability to increase and diversify its STEM workforce.
The investigators will explore the impact of design-focused, urban-centered service learning on the development of engineering identity and ultimately on the retention of engineering students. The project will include the development of a research tool that will help to identify at-risk students early, so as to better target students who can most benefit from the additional support from BOOST. The investigators will address not only whether but also how BOOST will help their students to succeed in engineering as well as whether or not they are targeting the students who will benefit most from the additional support of BOOST. To do so, they will develop an adaptive artificial neural network (ANN) that will model the relationships among various student factors and the probability of student success. The research will address the questions: what aspects of the program (service learning, urban setting, practical design experience, exposure to engineering concepts are needed in subsequent courses, what is the optimal program timing between freshman and sophomore year, what collaborations (as members of a team) are most beneficial to students' development of engineering identity and ultimately, to their success? Assessment and evaluation will be conducted using mixed methods, including, but not limited to, cognitive assessments such as course examinations and concept inventories, and affective assessments such as questions on the College Pedagogical Practice Inventory. The anticipated local outcome will be a 10% to 15% improvement in second year retention and six year graduation rates in ECST. The project will potentially lead to a model for improving student success at other similar institutions.