Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education Academic Pathways Study:
A Longitudinal Mixed-Methods Study of Engineering Students’ Learning and Development in the College Years
Deborah Kilgore, Cynthia J. Atman, Theresa Barker, Jenni Light, Jason Saleem, Ken Yasuhara (College of Engineering); Reed Stevens, Portia Sabin, Lari Garrison, Daniel Amos (College of Education)
The Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE) was founded in January 2003 with a five year grant from the National Science Foundation (ESI-0227558). This grant brings together a team of scholars with diverse backgrounds and disciplines from five campuses: Colorado School of Mines (CSM), Howard University (HU), Stanford University (SU), the University of Minnesota (UM), and the University of Washington (UW), the lead institution. The focus of our proposal is on research being conducted by UW researchers for the Academic Pathways Study (APS), a mixed-methods longitudinal study of engineering student learning and development across the participating institutions. The APS consists of four primary investigative tools: in-depth interviews (both structured and unstructured), surveys, ethnographic observations, and performance tasks, in which student participants are asked to complete a small engineering problem. Each tool complements the others, with the goal of achieving a rich, holistic understanding of engineering student learning and development in the college years. Forty UW student participants were recruited in 2003 by advertising the study in first-year courses identified as prerequisites for the engineering programs, as well as engineering student associations and interest groups for students intending to study engineering. Now in their junior year, participants continue to share their perspectives on UW engineering education, their understanding of engineering as a course of study and a profession, and their ways of thinking about, learning, and doing engineering.
We propose to present two posters summarizing our current findings from the performance task experiments conducted at UW in the first year of the APS and the ethnographic interviews and observations conducted at UW in the first three years of the APS. These two methods provide insights into how engineering students think about and practice engineering, as well as how they perceive the UW engineering education context. We will also discuss how these insights can inform instructional design and educational program planning.