BACKGROUND Understanding more about student decisions to leave engineering may leadto higher retention. This study builds on the literature and focuses on theexperiences of a cohort of students who aimed to complete their undergraduatework in 2007.
PURPOSE (HYPOTHESIS) This paper presents the outcomes of the longitudinal administration of thePersistence in Engineering survey. The goal was to identify correlates of persistencein undergraduate engineering education and professional engineeringpractice.
DESIGN/METHOD The survey was administered seven times over four years to a cohort of studentswho had expressed interest in studying engineering. At the end of thestudy, the participants were categorized as persisters or non-persisters.Repeated measures analysis of variance was used, in conjunction with otherapproaches, to test for differences between the groups.
RESULTS Persisters and non-persisters did not differ significantly according to themajority of the constructs. Nevertheless, parental and high school mentorinfluences as a motivation to study engineering, as well as confidence inmath and science skills, were identified as correlates of persistence. Intentionto complete an engineering major was also a correlate of persistence; itappears to decline sharply at least two semesters prior to students leavingengineering. The findings also suggest that there might be differencesamong non-persisters when they are further grouped by when they leaveengineering.
CONCLUSIONS Facilitating higher levels of mentor involvement before college mightincrease student motivation to study engineering, and also constitute amechanism for fostering confidence in math and science skills. Since theintention to complete an engineering degree decreases well before studentsact, there may be opportunities for institutions to develop targeted interventionsfor students, and help them make informed decisions.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/debbie_chachra/2/