This is the seventh issue of Success
101. Its purpose is to provide a forum for engineering and
engineering technology faculty and administrators, student service staff,
and minority engineering program staff to share ideas about conducting an Introduction
to Engineering or Introduction
to Engineering Technology course that will significantly enhance
students’ success. Articles
that appeared in the first six issues of Success
101 can be found on the Discovery Press web page: www.discovery-press.com.
When my text Studying
Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career came out in June, 1995,
there was the "good news" and the "bad news."
The good news was that my book had no competition.
There was no text like it on the market.
The bad news was that the market for my book was limited.
Engineering education for the most part operated on the "sink
or swim" paradigm. Most
engineering programs placed little or no emphasis in their curriculum on
student development and therefore had no place for a book like mine.
I'm pleased to say that the "news" has changed on both
Now my book has
competition. It seems like
everyday I receive a new engineering "student success" text.
Those that I have seen include Engineering
Success by Peter Schiavone, The
Engineering Student Survival Guide
by Krista Donaldson, Majoring in
Engineering by John Garcia, Is
There an Engineer Inside You? by Celeste Baine, and Engineering
Your Future by William C. Oakes et al.
Each of these recently published texts contains valuable material
and I'm sure that more such texts are on the way.
The market will decide which of these best meets the needs of
And the bad news has changed as well.
The market for these books has grown.
Over the past five years, my text has been used by over 300
institutions. The success of Studying
Engineering and the fact that so many new engineering student success
books are coming out indicate that more and more engineering colleges are
recognizing that an Introduction to Engineering course having a primary
focus on "student development" can improve the academic
performance and retention of their students.
Let's all work to keep this "movement" going.
CALL FOR PAPERS
Success 101 is published twice yearly (May 1 and December 1) and mailed to
approximately 3,000 engineering and engineering technology educators.
We are seeking articles for the Spring, 2000 issue.
Deadline March 15, 2000
may range from very short (e.g., quotes, exercises, activities) to up to
two pages in the newsletter (opinion pieces, success stories, letters to
the editor). Submit
(preferably by e-mail or on disk) to:
c/o Dr. Raymond B. Landis
School of Engineering and Technology
California State University, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90032
Telephone: (323) 343-4500
are invited to visit the Discovery Press web page (www.discovery-press.com).
The web page contains various resources designed to support
instructors of “student success” courses for engineering and
engineering technology students. These
include the following:
on how to order Studying
Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career and Studying
Engineering Technology: A Blueprint for Success.
2 of Studying Engineering
(Chapter can be downloaded and copied for distribution). High school students, teachers, and counselors can be
referred to this chapter for “guidance” on engineering as a career.
articles in past issues of Success
1996, Issue #1
Fall 1996, Issue #2
Spring 1997, Issue #3
Fall, 1997, Issue #4
Fall, 1998, Issue #5
1999, Issue #6
ASEE papers by R. B. Landis:
Student Success Through a Model Introduction to Engineering Course," Proceedings
of 1992 ASEE Annual Conference, June 1992.
Development: An Alternative to 'Sink or Swim,'" Proceedings
of 1994 ASEE Annual Conference, June 1994.
Student Commitment to Engineering," Proceedings
of 1995 ASEE Annual Conference, June, 1995.
Engineering Student Success: A Pedagogy for Changing Behaviors," Proceedings of 1997 ASEE Annual Conference, June, 1997.
Engineering Student Success: Working with Students to Change Their
Attitudes," Proceedings of 1998
ASEE Annual Conference, June, 1998.
"Improving Engineering Guidance: Introduction to
Engineering for High School Teachers and Counselors," Proceedings
of 1999 ASEE Annual Conference, June, 1999.
Sample syllabus of Cal State L.A. course, ENGR 100, Introduction to
Engineering from Spring, 1999.
Links to sample syllabi from Introduction to Engineering courses at
Success Courses for Beginning
Engineering Technology Students: Part II - Course
by Stephen R. Cheshier, Southern Polytechnic State University
This article is excerpted from a paper by the same title, Proceedings
of the 1999 ASEE Annual Conference.
Part I of this article appeared in the spring, 1999 issue of Success 101. In Part I,
the need for "student success" courses for first year
engineering technology students was presented.
In Part II that follows, the course design is discussed.]
Academic Success Course for ET Students
course the first step in designing a course is to realize that one is
needed and will pay dividends in student success far out of proportion to
the time spent on it. I
suggest that it be a requirement for all entering ET students.
It is common that such courses are offered at the departmental
level so that some program specific information can be included, but the
course works just as well if offered to a mixture of all ET students
without regard to intended major (after all, students change their major,
and most of the material can apply to all technically-oriented students).
should be included in an academic success course for ET students?
In the broadest sense, there are several areas that seem essential.
Takes" to be Successful Academically
have all seen poorly prepared students succeed and well-prepared students
fail after enrolling in our programs.
I believe the difference is to a small extent innate ability, but
to a larger extent motivation, planning, and effort.
We can help students assess their abilities and interests and guide
them in overcoming their deficiencies, thus preparing them to successfully
complete their program. This
area could include such things as an overview of how important it will be
for them to learn to think critically and to analyze and solve problems,
to develop solid technical skills, to learn to communicate effectively, to
develop a strong work ethic, to learn to work well with others, and to
become literate in using the tools of technology (e.g. computers).
of Engineering Technology
subject should be covered early in an orientation course since most new ET
students really have little understanding of their anticipated career
field. There is much that
could be discussed on this subject. Topics
might include the opportunities and rewards of a technical career (job
satisfaction, challenging work, financial security, benefiting society,
professional work environments, fulfillment, prestige, etc.), what is
engineering technology and how does it differ from other related technical
fields, and an overview of the various ET disciplines.
This might be followed by discussions (possibly involving alumni or
industrial partners) about projected employment opportunities in major
types of industries. Job
categories typically found within industry, as well as consulting and
entrepreneurship, should also be discussed.
Since today's students will be working well into the 21st century,
ET fields that show promise for the future should also be emphasized.
Technology Educational Process
is important for students early on to learn to "navigate"
through the educational process. I
believe that it is important to cover (at least briefly) the historical
development of engineering technology education.
Since it is often confused with engineering education, this is a
time to clarify how the two developed differently in our academic
institutions. This section of
a course could also provide the opportunity to discuss departmental and
school policies and procedures, the advising process, curricular planning
and course registration, and the role of faculty and administration.
Academic Success Strategies
may be the most important area of all in terms of its potential to affect
retention and student achievement. It
has been my observation over the years that ET students have not given
much thought to developing the academic skills they will need if they are
to be successful. These are
skills that can be learned, but that most of us learned "the hard
way" through good or bad experiences, or perhaps never learned at
Topics such as
setting realistic goals, "programming" yourself for success,
making decisions about part-time work, living arrangements and other
outside activities, learning to seek help when it is needed (rather than
weeks too late), interacting effectively with faculty, utilizing campus
support resources, developing effective learning strategies, and time
management are all useful to cover and discuss.
A very important topic is helping students understand the
importance of effective study habits and skills.
Many ET students simply do not know how to study for results.
Subjects ranging from how long to study, to how to identify
important content, to how to take tests should be included. There are excellent resources available in this area, and
faculty can often get good support in teaching study skills from the
campus student support staff.
of Acquiring Educational Breadth
once said that an education is what remains after you have forgotten the
information that you learned in college.
While this is not literally true, there is a lot to be said for not
becoming too focused upon the major discipline such that much of
educational value is overlooked. Presentations
in this area might include subjects like choosing technical and
non-technical electives wisely, participating in student organizations
(general interest and professional), considering co-op or internships to
get first-hand experience, or doing community volunteer work based upon
knowledge learned in school.
subjects (although they could be addressed later in the program) might
include conducting an effective job search, participating in student
competitions, completing a meaningful senior project, mentoring or helping
other students, etc.
hand-in-hand with acquiring educational breadth is the area of personal
development. All of us have
acquired habits and traits that we should change, but few of us do change
without bringing the need into focus.
Students could learn, perhaps with the help of colleagues in the
school's counseling center, such things as behavior modification, self
awareness and understanding (e.g. self esteem, their learning style,
personality type, under-standing and getting along with others), and
assessing their individual strengths and weaknesses.
An area that we
must recognize as critical for our students' future is lifelong learning.
Technology is simply changing too fast for students' formal
education to be viewed as being complete.
Of course, helping them prepare for either graduate school or
employment is important, but even more so is the need to help our students
develop independent learning strategies.
faculty may decide that only certain of these (or other) topics are
important, and they may plan their courses or topics accordingly.
Some may choose to supplement those topics chosen with other
"hard" topics (e.g., computing, graphics, design, etc.).
I believe that some systematic coverage of at least the first four
areas discussed above to be the minimum content for an ET student success
Faculty can get
help in preparing for such a course through a variety of printed resources
(including the author's text Studying
Engineering Technology), NSF sponsored short courses (see page xx),
the Freshman Year Experience program, and others.
And there are student success support resources available on each
understand the hesitancy of some faculty to spend time on so called
"soft" topics, especially devoting an entire course (of even one
semester hour) to them, I earnestly believe that the time spent on this or
similar material will pay great dividends in both retention and student
achievement. I also believe
that it is important for students to have a solid understanding of their
career field and their specific discipline.
This material is difficult to learn anecdotally, and even if it is
learned that way, there will often be misinformation involved.
A formal course (or portion of a course) taught by a knowledgeable
instructor avoids this problem. I
cannot think of anything that could be done in another one-credit course
that could have the potential to make such a difference in student
success. If you have such a
course, I hope you will agree, and if you do not, give it a try!
is declining and retention is poor in many of the nation's engineering
technology programs. With the
country's increasing dependence on "things technological," it is
important to attract, support, retain, and graduate greater number of ET
students. Unfortunately, most
prospective ET students do not come to college prepared to take full
advantage of our fine academic programs.
Having them attempt to complete 120 or so semester hours of
rigorous collegiate work without an adequate strategy or perhaps even the
tools to predict success, seems to put even academically well prepared
students at a disadvantage. It
may even put marginally prepared or marginally motivated students at so
great a disadvantage that they become casualties of the program.
I contend that
if faculty have the desire to more fully support beginning students, then
a short, well structured "academic success" course early in
their academic career is an effective way to accomplish this goal.
available so that such a course need not be difficult to organize and
implement, and the limited contact time means that it need not be
intrusive in already crowded technical curricula.
As our programs seek to broaden their appeal to non-traditional
populations and students with a wide variation in their academic
preparation and life experiences, clearly time spent in helping them
develop better success skills will be time well spent.
What Kind of
Sculptors are We?
following quotes provided by Dr. Michael Kelly, Cal State L.A. Northrop
Grumman Engineering Endowed Chair, suggest the role of an instructor in an
Introduction to Engineering course:
Ordinary sculptors work to create something new in the stone.
Michelangelo sought to discover and draw out what was already in
Managers need to discover what is within people and to draw out the best
from each person.
need to do the same thing.
Multiple Choice Exams for Studying
available as attached e-mail files)
Landis has prepared three 25-question multiple choice exams for
instructors to use with his text
Studying Engineering. The
first exam covers Chapters 1 and 2; the second exam covers Chapters 3 and
4; and the third exam covers Chapters 5 and 6.
copies of the three exams and solution key, send an e-mail request to:
and solution key will be sent to you as attached files by return e-mail.
Having the exams as electronic files will allow you to manipulate
and modify them.
and short answer exams would be more effective in measuring students’
comprehension and retention of the material in the text, the multiple
choice exams provide a tool for the instructor to use (without excessive
grading time demands) to motivate students to take assignments to read the
following are four "implementation exercises" that you can use
to make a significant difference in the success of your students.
These exercises will be most effective when implemented in an
Introduction to Engineering course, but they can also be implemented in
other engineering courses, summer bridge or summer orientation programs,
or in one-on-one mentoring of individual students. [Note: Suggestions as
to how to accomplish each of these exercises are provided and can be found
on the Discovery Press web page: www.discovery-press.com
in the specific references to ASEE papers and articles from past issues of
Implementation Exercise #1 -
students are each other's most valuable resource. Build the students in your class into a learning community by
going as far as you can through the following three steps.
- Conduct name learning exercises to ensure that every student in the
class knows the name (first and last) of every other student.
(See article "The Name Game: It's All in How You Do It," Success
101, Issue #5, Spring, 1998, page 11)
building - Develop a commitment on the part of your students to a high
level of mutual support by teaching them the value they represent to each
other. (See article on
"Group Building" in Success
101, Issue #3, Spring, 1997, page 5)
relations training - Help your students develop the interpersonal
communication skills necessary to interact with each other in a positive
and effective manner. (See
article on "Human Relations Training," Success
101, Issue #2, Fall, 1996, page
your effectiveness by noting any impact on attendance, energy level of the
class, attention to homework, number of questions asked by students in
class, and other sought after student behaviors.
Implementation Exercise #2 - Strengthening
Students' Commitment to Success in Engineering Study
a strategy for assessing the strength of your students' commitment to
success in engineering. Implement
four strategies that will be effective in strengthening your students'
commitment to success in engineering study:
a process of "goal clarification" in which each of your students
answers the question "Why do I want to be an engineer?" by
identifying and internalizing the rewards and opportunities that will come
to them through success in engineering study.
(See article on "Rewards and Opportunities," Success
101, Issue #2, Fall, 1996, page 13)
your students develop an articulate answer to the question they are often
asked "What is engineering?"
Students are embarrassed when they can't explain their field of
study and career choice to others.
your students through a process of learning as much about engineering as
possible, including the various academic disciplines, job functions, and
industry sectors. (See
"Building Students' Commitment to Engineering" and article on
"Exposure to Industry" in Success
101, Issue #6, Spring, 1999, page 13)
your students' layout a plan for completing their entire engineering
program. Having a
"roadmap" for achieving a goal can be motivating and increase
whether you were successful in strengthening your students' commitment to
success in engineering study.
Implementation Exercise #3 - Changing Students'
one or more behaviors that you believe your students are not practicing
but you believe would enhance their success if they did. You can either come up with the behaviors yourself, ask your
students to come up with them, or use one or more of the
"success" behaviors presented below:
key success behaviors
on task - Students devote an appropriate amount of time and effort to
management - Students schedule their study time so that they master the
material presented in each class session before the beginning of the next
interaction - Students frequently share information with their peers and
regularly engage in group study and collaborative learning.
with faculty - Students interact regularly with their professors both in
the classroom and outside of it, positively and with benefit.
for lectures - Students prepare for each lecture in their key classes and
get more out of the lectures as a result.
on campus - Students spend as much time as possible on campus to take full
advantage of the resources available to them.
a sound approach designed to change several specific behaviors by giving
your students an opportunity to experience the efficacy of each behavior.
(See "Enhancing Student Success: A Five Step Process for
Getting Students to Study Smart," ASEE
PRISM, November, 1997, page 30 or "Pedagogy for Changing
Behaviors," Success 101, Issue #3, Spring, 1997, page 2)
whether students are practicing the behaviors you worked on with them.
Implementation Exercise #4 - Changing Students'
with students to change their attitudes to those that will bring about the
"success behaviors" described above.
Utilize the following steps (See article "Enhancing Student
Success: Working with Students to Change their Attitudes").
key areas in which your students' attitudes (positive or negative) will
have a significant impact on their academic success.
students in becoming "conscious" of the attitudes (both positive
and negative) they hold in each of these areas.
each attitude, have students answer the question: "Is this attitude
working for me (positive attitude) or against me (negative attitude)?
For each negative attitude, have students answer the question:
"Why do I hold this attitude?" (i.e., What is its source?)
students answer the question: "Can I change the attitudes that are
not working for me (negative attitudes) to ones that will work for me
whether you have brought about significant changes in your students'
attitudes. Did the changes
you brought about in their attitudes lead to changes in their behaviors?
(Integrated Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, and Chemistry) was an
experimental first-year engineering curriculum funded by the National
Science Foundation through the SUCCEED Coalition.
The curriculum integrated the first two calculus courses, the first
semester of chemistry, the first semester of physics (mechanics), and a
one-credit engineering course in each semester.
The objectives of the engineering courses were: 1) to serve the
traditional orientation functions of the freshman engineering course; 2)
to provide real-world motivation and context for the science and
mathematics fundamentals taught in the core freshman courses; and 3) to
provide training in critical success skills
Burniston (mathematics), Philip Dail (chemistry), John Gastineau
(physics), Bob Beichner (physics), Leonard Bernold (civil engineering) and
I put everything any of us knew about effective teaching into the design
and delivery of IMPEC. Besides
subject integration and team-teaching, we used active learning in the
classroom and cooperative learning for assignments, Harvard calculus,
hands-on physics, and chemistry simulations augmenting the traditional
experiments. All of the
courses provided training and practice in word processing, spreadsheets,
presentation graphics, and symbolic mathematics software, and the
engineering course included writing assignments, design projects in each
semester, and critical success skill development.
Once a week the faculty met to discuss what we would do in the
following week, when we would teach separately and when we would come
together for multidisciplinary “workshops” on specified topics, and
how to deal with student problems that occasionally arose.
the first year of the program (1995/96), we formed a control group of
students who had volunteered for IMPEC but could not be accepted because
of the enrollment limitation, and we also compared performance results for
the IMPEC students with results for all students in the standard freshmen
engineering course (E100). In
the second year (1996/97), we compared the IMPEC students with students in
E100 and in a special freshman course (E497) that included some skill
development but no subject integration. The assessment measures included
percentages passing all of the science and mathematics courses,
performance on common final examination questions, performance on the
Hestenes test in physics (an instrument taken by freshman physics students
all over the country), and responses on the Pittsburgh Freshman
Engineering Attitudes Survey (Besterfield-Sacre, M.E. and Atman, C.J.,
"Survey Design Methodology: Measuring Freshman Attitudes about
Engineering," 1994 ASEE Annual
Conference Proceedings, Edmonton, Canada) administered at the
beginning and end of the first semester.
There were no significant differences in average pre-college
admission criteria between the IMPEC students and the students in the
Assessment and Evaluation
The principal assessment results are as follows.
"Pass" denotes earning a grade of C or better.
the first year, 69 percent (25/36) of the IMPEC students passed all four
core courses, as compared with 52 percent (16/31) of the control group and
53 percent (489/930) in E100 (p<.01).
In the second year 78 percent (28/36) of the IMPEC students passed
all four courses, as compared with 50 percent (176/349) in E100 and 50
percent (102/206) in E497 (p<.01).
percentages of IMPEC women passing all four courses were 60 percent in the
first year (6/10) and 67 percent in the second year (4/6).
The percentages passing were 100 percent (5/5) for the control
group, 45 percent (107/237) for E100 (Year 1), 41 percent (24/58) for E100
(Year 2), and 46 percent (27/58) for E497.
100 percent of the African-American students in IMPEC passed in
each year (5/5 in Year 1, 4/4 in Year 2), as opposed to 29 percent
(34/117) and 21 percent (25/118) in the standard freshman engineering
program. The IMPEC sample
sizes were too small for the level of significance of these results to be
were no significant differences in performance of the different groups on
common final examination questions in chemistry, physics, and calculus,
although we are quite sure that there would have been if we had been
allowed to include high-level open-ended questions and questions requiring
integrated knowledge on the standard course examinations.
The IMPEC students performed at a significantly higher level on the
Hestenes physics test than the national average for traditionally-taught
physics courses. (The students in our comparison groups did not take this
test.) We also have a wealth
of anecdotal data regarding the superior performance of the IMPEC students
on tasks requiring high-level thinking, engineering design, computer
skills, and courses that were not part of IMPEC.
March 1999, 64 percent (23/36)
of the Year 1 IMPEC students and 67 percent (24/36) of the Year 2 IMPEC
students had successfully matriculated and were still enrolled in
engineering. We do not have
the comparable statistics for the comparison groups, but retention after
the first two years is generally well below 50 percent.
greatest differences between the IMPEC students and the comparison groups
were revealed in the results from the Pittsburgh Attitudes Survey.
The IMPEC students gained confidence in their abilities in
chemistry, calculus, physics, engineering problem-solving, writing skills,
oral presentation skills, and computer skills after each of the first two
semesters. The average
confidence levels for the comparison groups decreased
over the course of the first semester in chemistry and engineering
problem-solving, and decreased in all categories but physics for the Year
1 control group. (No data for
the comparison groups were available for physics, which was taken in the
second semester.) The differences between IMPEC and the comparison groups
were statistically significant (p<.05)
in all categories but writing.
to the comparison groups, the IMPEC students maintained more positive
attitudes toward the engineering profession and felt more challenged, but
complained less about the demands of the curriculum.
success of the IMPEC program in improving academic performance, confidence
levels, and attitudes is impressive, but it is difficult to know how much
of it can be attributed to the individual pedagogical methods included in
the course (subject integration, active/cooperative learning, hands-on
experimentation in the classroom, etc.) and how much was due to the
curriculum being taught to a relatively small class by a group of highly
motivated instructors. There
can be no conclusive resolution of this question, but a clue is provided
by the Pittsburgh Attitude Survey. Mary
Besterfield-Sacre, the principal designer of the survey, has for several
years compiled results from a number of U.S. Engineering Schools.
In her initial findings, IMPEC was the only freshman program for
which students generally reported an increase in confidence levels and
more positive attitudes to engineering after the first semester of
engineering. In subsequent
findings, several programs (a small minority of the total number) showed
the same result. A common
feature of these programs was subject integration.
Integration may not be a sufficient condition for augmenting
success in the first year of engineering, but it clearly can go a long way
toward this end.
What is required to make integration work?
on our experience with IMPEC, the primary requirement for successful
curriculum integration is a dedicated team of competent and compatible
instructors who share a vision of what they want the curriculum to be and
agree on how to achieve this vision.
Meeting this requirement in turn requires adequate incentives for
faculty members to participate and adequate compensation for doing so.
Teaching in an integrated curriculum requires faculty members to do
everything they would have to do if they were teaching a traditional
course and considerably more by way of planning and coordination.
Imposing the additional work on faculty members who do not fully
subscribe to the concept is not likely to lead to productive results, and
mandating participation without additional compensation is probably a
prescription for failure. If
teams that meet the specified criteria are formed, however, the rewards to
both students and instructors can be substantial.
are pleased to announce a new NSF-sponsored Chautauqua short course
specifically designed to prepare engineering technology faculty to be
effective in enhancing the success of first-year engineering technology
students. Join other
engineering technology faculty in a three-day short course to share and
learn strategies and approaches for improving the academic performance and
retention of your students.
course will be offered:
April 26-28, 2000 at the University of Dayton Conference Center, Dayton,
will learn the content and pedagogy for accomplishing important objectives
under five key themes:
should be of interest to those working to enhance student success through
summer orientations, formal academic year courses, or formal and informal
advising and mentoring.
The format of
the course will be strongly interactive with emphasis placed on group
problem solving and experiential learning.
The course will
be co-facilitated by Dr. Stephen R. Cheshier, President Emeritus at
Southern Polytechnic University, Dr. Barbara Anderson, of Southern
Polytechnic University, and Dr. Raymond B. Landis, Dean of Engineering and
Technology at California State University, Los Angeles.
The only cost
for attending the course is a $40 application fee. Participants will be responsible for their travel expenses
You may register on-line at:
(click on "On Line Application")
Registration by Mail or Fax
register by mail or fax, contact:
Dr. George K Miner
Director, Chautauqua Field Center
Department of Physics
University of Dayton
Dayton, OH 45469-2314
Telephone: (937) 229-2327
Fax: (937) 229-2185
I attended your Rosemead Chatauqua short course in
spring, 1998. I then went
before my curriculum committee in spring, 1999 with a proposal for a
student-success-based Intro course and got approval!
I’ll be offering the course for the first time this fall, using
I thought you
might like to know—there will be another voice in the California chorus
supporting this course.
Merced (CA) College
Thank you for
writing your wonderful book Studying
Engineering. I used it
last semester for my Introduction to the Engineering Profession course and
had very positive feedback from the students.
We plan to use it from now on.
Please e-mail me
the three multiple-choice exams that were recently advertised in the Success
101 newsletter. Thank you
for your time.
Dan Justice, Ph.D.
Metropolitan Community Colleges
Kansas City, Missouri
You are great! My first week back from your Chautauqua course and the
Engineering Liaison Committee, I used your “name game” in my intro
course. I then used it again
during the second meeting with different groups.
I brought up the idea of using the name game using your pedagogy
steps. It worked!
I’m finally building a community.
This summer I will revamp my
introductory engineering course curriculum to include the other items.
I have already decided what I'm getting rid of.
Thanks for sending the exams and key.
I appreciate the support and continue to commend you for an
excellent approach to engineering education.
I believe this is a productive approach to generating interest in
engineering careers. I would
like to see this integrated or made available in the K-12 system as part
of career studies. Maybe the
ideas would intrigue younger students and help them better prepare for
Oregon Institute of Technology
Note: Your point about
reaching students early is well taken.
California’s MESA program has long been working to attract and
prepare students for college-level math, engineering, and science studies;
and similar programs can be found throughout the country.
As Dean of the School of Engineering and Technology at Cal State
L.A., I have initiated extensive K-12 outreach activities, including a
biannual ARCO-funded course that brings together science/math teachers and
counselors from our feeder high schools to learn about engineering.
For more information about this course, see my ASEE paper
"Improving Engineering Guidance: Introduction to Engineering for High
School Teachers and Counselors" on the Discovery Press web page.
I am a Computer Engineering major
at the University of Illinois at Chicago and one of the many students who
read and loved your book, Studying Engineering. Your book is
excellent and well suited for introducing students to engineering.
Thank you for writing it.
You make one point in the book,
however, that I disagree with. On
page 4 you write: “Start by making graduation in engineering your
primary life goal,” and throughout the book you encourage students to
make school their #1 priority in life.
I feel that even though engineering school does consume the
majority of one’s time, it should not be a student’s primary goal.
Basically, “living” should be one’s primary goal, like
tending to one’s personal responsibilities, helping neighbors in need,
and supporting family and friends. Students
need to remember that school is just a means to an end; it is not an end,
nor is it a primary life goal.
Sometimes, especially in
engineering school, students get these priorities confused. With the constant pressure of grades, high GPAs, and
uncertain futures, some are driven to suicide, suffer severe depression,
or exhibit anti-social behaviors.
If I’m wrong, help me get the
right viewpoint. Thanks for
University of Illinois at Chicago.
Response: Your compliments
about my book and your close reading of it are very much appreciated.
I am particularly touched when a student (like yourself) takes the
time to write a note—whether the comments are positive or
negative—since YOU are my primary audience.
point about “making graduation in engineering your primary life goal,”
I certainly agree with what you say. “Living one’s life,” as you
describe it, inevitably requires people to adjust their
priorities—including one’s commitment to engineering studies.
I am also deeply troubled to think that students might take their
studies to such extremes that they end up hurting themselves, and possibly
others. But these are not the students I am addressing on page 4 (and
elsewhere) in my book. Emotionally
fragile students and/or students who face life-altering situations (which
preclude them from pursuing an engineering career) comprise a quite small
contingent of the country’s engineering students.
message is for the vast majority of students who have every skill, talent,
and promise to earn their B.S. degrees in engineering—but who don’t
make it. Why? Because they
put other priorities ahead of their engineering studies. For
these students, recreation, sports, entertainment, college activities,
friends, jobs—even some family matters—take precedence over a lab
report or calculus exam. And
so they drop out or fail. I've
had many of these students visit me over the years and express deep regret
that they didn't get their education when they had the chance.
Hello, Mr. Landis. My
name is Lotten Mthombeni, a first year electrical engineering student at
the University of Cape Town in South Africa. I read your book, Studying
Engineering. You really
helped a lot particularly in the area of setting goals in life.
I often heard people talking about it and it became so familiar,
but I never took it serious until I read your book.
I try by all means to put what you said in your book into practice,
like being an involved student.
Lotten Mthombeni, Student
University of Cape Town
I have been a fan of yours ever
since I read your book two years ago.
This coming fall, I will use it in my Intro to Engr course for the
third consecutive year.
I have been teaching engineering
courses at a small community college in northern Minnesota for the past
six years. I subscribe to
many of the ideals that you list in your book and "preach" them
to my students. Since
arriving in 1993 our engineering enrollment has grown from 18 to 130 and
our students and graduates are having great successes.
Ronald Ulseth, P.E.
the old man walked the beach at dawn, he noticed a young man ahead of him
picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally catching up with the youth, he asked him why he was
doing this. The answer was
that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun. "But the beach goes on for miles and there are millions
of starfish," countered the other.
"How can your effort make any difference?"
The young man looked at the starfish in his hand, and then threw it
to safety in the waves. "It makes a difference to this one," he said.
by Jim Miner
other engineering faculty, minority engineering program staff, and
engineering student services staff in a three-day short course to share
and learn strategies and approaches for enhancing engineering student
course will only be offered once during the 1999/2000 academic year:
March 23-25, 2000 at the Sheraton Rosemead Hotel in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
will learn the content and pedagogy for accomplishing five important
Building students into learning communities
Strengthening students' commitment to success in engineering study
Changing students' behaviors to those that are appropriate to
success in math, science, engineering courses
Changing students' attitudes to those that produce success
Empowering students to take responsibility for their education
should be of interest to those working to enhance student success through
summer orientations, formal academic year courses, or formal and informal
advising and mentoring.
The format of
the course will be strongly interactive with emphasis placed on group
problem solving and experiential learning.
The course will
be co-facilitated by Dr. Raymond B. Landis, Dean of Engineering and
Technology at California State University, Los Angeles and Dr. Edward
Prather, Assistant Dean of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
The only cost
for attending the course is a $40 application fee. Participants will be responsible for their travel expenses
You may register on-line at:
(click on "On Line Application")
Registration by Mail or Fax
register by mail or fax, contact:
Dr. Nicholas G. Eror
of Materials Science and Engr
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Telephone: (412) 624-9761
Fax: (412) 624-1108
first learned of the concept of "Locus of Control" from my MEP
Director Milton Randle. According
to his article in the Fall, 1996 issue of Success
101, Locus of Control is a psychological term for the personality
trait that explains how we attribute control in our lives. Internal locus of control means that we believe we are in
charge of our life. External
locus of control means that we believe that something or someone other
than ourselves is in charge.
I suppose I always understood this idea.
I just had a slightly different way of looking at it.
My version of locus of control was ¾"Don't
take 'no' for an answer." Once
Milton taught me about locus of control, I had a nice framework for
teaching students to take control of their lives.
As one strategy for helping students understand these concepts, I
share my favorite locus of control story with them as follows.
Several years after I became dean of engineering
and technology at Cal State L.A., I began to realize that our
thirty-year-old facilities needed renovating.
So I went to the person on the campus who was in charge of major
capital projects (let's call him "Mr. Ed") and asked him how
could we go about getting funding to renovate our facilities.
Mr. Ed told me "No chance."
He said that priorities within the California State University
System (a system of 23 public universities) were being placed on new
construction at campuses where enrollment was growing.
He said no funding was being provided for major renovation
projects. I told him that I
wasn't interested in his opinion of whether we could be successful, I was
asking him "How? How do
we go about proposing for major capital funds for renovating our
facilities?" He told me we needed to write our case according to a
specific format and submit it to him.
We did so, and, the next year when the list of
major capital projects on our campus was published, our $31 million
project was there, ranked #19 out of twenty.
I went to Mr. Ed and after he told me that #19 had no chance of
funding, I asked him how the ranking was done.
He told me "You have no chance of moving up in the ranking and
even if you did renovation projects were not being funded by the
system." Again, I told
him I was not interested in his opinion of whether we could move up in the
ranking." I was asked
him how the ranking was done. He
told me the ranking was done by the Campus Physical Planning Committee and
gave me a list of the committee membership.
I invited each member of the Campus Physical
Planning Committee to come and look at our facilities.
I explained how disadvantaged our students were to be educated in
such outmoded facilities. The
next year, we were ranked #3 on the list of campus major capital projects.
Again, I went to Mr. Ed and after he told me that only if we were
ranked #1 on the campus would we have any chance of being funded, I asked
him "How can we become ranked #1?"
He told me that there was little chance or no chance we could be
ranked #1. He said that if
the campus ranked such an expensive project as it's #1, it would risk
getting no major capital funding from the System.
Again, I told him all I wanted to know was what the process was for
determining which project was ranked #1.
He told me "It's decided by the President."
I must have had the President over to visit our
facilities at least five times. I
showed him our computer labs that were so hot (air conditioning was
designed before computers) that even if we didn't care about the people,
we had to shut them down because the machines couldn't take the
temperature. I showed him
where water poured into our building when it rained.
And I told him I was tired of having
alumni visit and point out equipment they had used when they were students
more than twenty-five years before. I
explained to him that it wasn’t right that our students had to use
out-of-date equipment when engineering students at suburban campuses where
enrollment was growing were being educated in new engineering buildings
with the new, state-of-the art equipment bought with funding that
accompanied new buildings.
The next year our project was ranked #1 on the
campus and with the President's strong support and an effective
presentation before representatives of the state government in Sacramento,
we gained approval for our project. We
are now in the middle of a three-phase $31 million renovation project
(including $6.4 million for new equipment) that will be completed in
April, 2000. At that point, we will have the finest undergraduate teaching
laboratories, computer facilities, and instructional classrooms of any
engineering program in the nation.
students love to hear this story. Call
it "Locus of Control" if you like.
I call it "Don't take no for an answer."
I'm sure in your career you have had successes that were the result
of you taking control of your life. I
hope you'll share your favorite "internal locus of control"
story with your students. Through
it, they will learn to take control of their lives.
team is more than just several people working on a common project.
There are major differences between individual work and teamwork.
For example, to be an effective team member, one should have a
desire to be a part of something that exceeds the limits of individual
capabilities. One should have
an interest in doing a job with a higher degree of social interaction than
is required by individual work. One
needs an interest in (or at least willingness to) receiving external
criticism. Effective team members also want to learn by association with
others who are perceived as being very knowledgeable. And they have a genuine interest in sharing their knowledge
with others. Furthermore, a
team approach to a project usually generates a greater degree of conflict
than many people are accustomed to. Teams,
more than individuals, have a much greater need for structured approaches.
done in the 1950's by Robert F. Bales ("In Conference," Harvard
Business Review, 1954) indicated that in general, the optimum team
size is five. Based on an IEEE recommendation (IEEE, Software Engineering Standards,
October 1987), the optimum team size for an engineering project course is
five. (Realistically, most projects on the job require more than 4 to 6
people and will be subdivided into several smaller working units.)
Bigger is not necessarily better, especially in an
engineering team. The first
reaction of students tends to be that if there are more people, each will
have less work to do. However,
in coordinating a project, communication is vital at all levels.
The larger the team, the larger the number of lines of
communication. This can
quickly offset any advantage of having fewer subtasks per person.
Another drawback of larger groups is that members find it more
difficult to get to know one another.
And sometimes in a larger group, there may be a problem if one
member feels that his or her contribution doesn't matter, since there are
so many others.
An Effective Team Environment
order to work most effectively in a team effort, it is important that
there be an atmosphere that encourages cooperation rather than
competition. Team members
must understand that their action (or inaction) affects the team effort,
and this must supersede individual concern.
Although classroom projects may (or may not) be graded on an
individual basis, for most group efforts on the job, the group either
succeeds or fails as a group.
Conflict among group members should not be seen as
inherently a problem. Conflict
is indicative of the introduction of a variety of ideas. This is a positive attribute of a group.
However, there needs to be an established mechanism for conflict
resolution and decision making. Conflict
management is essentially a selection between alternative actions.
In most projects, there is generally no one "right" way
of doing things. Making a
decision and getting on with the project is much more critical than
arguing over whose ideas should be used.
Approaches for conflict resolution include
compromise, forcing, avoidance, or confrontation.
While compromise has great appeal in some situations, in
engineering projects, it can reflect a tendency to avoid the real issue.
The converse of this is forcing, where one person insists that it
be done a particular way. Neither of these is particularly effective.
Avoidance means ignoring the conflict; hoping it will go away. A
moment's thought should indicate that there is no real solution in this,
and worse, the avoidance process is a drain on the group energy.
As it turns out, confrontation is the most
effective method of conflict resolution.
By insisting that the group examine the areas of disagreement,
differences are brought into the open.
Discussion of different views is likely to bring out the best
solution, and therefore one that will be acceptable to all parties.
Once the alternatives are clearly defined, decisions can be made by
voting if necessary.
Problems Typical to Group Work
are some problems that typically come up in group work.
One is dealing with a member who seems to be doing less than his or
her share. Any perception of
dissatisfaction on the part of the other group members can cause the
guilty party to withdraw, resulting is the loss of a member to the group.
A likely cause is that the person did not understand something.
Helping the person can often get him or her to back into the group.
type of problem can arise when an individual is reluctant to express his
or her opinion about something of concern to them because no one else has
mentioned it ("Everyone else agrees to the proposed strategy so I
guess it must be right."). Sometimes
each group member can share the same reservation, but they all refrain
from commenting. This has
been referred to as groupthink,
and has led to some major disasters, such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco in
1961 (Janis, Irving L., Victims of
Groupthink: A Psychological Study
of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascos, Houghton Mifflin, 1982).
It is important to teach students to express not only ideas, but
also reservations and concerns.
common problem is group members who become competitive rather than
cooperative. The result is
endless arguments about technical details, where minor problems turn into
power struggles. It is
important to teach students that teamwork means cooperation.
Some Helpful Suggestions for
somebody is talking, the other group members should not only listen, but
also keep indicating their reactions actively.
The speaker probably cannot read minds, and he or she needs the
honest reaction, whether positive or negative, of the other group members.
speaker should keep his or her eyes on the group, talking to the group as
a whole (rather than to a crony or a special opponent.) The speaker should constantly watch for reactions to what he
or she is saying.
problems arise, one tactic to break off an argument is to backtrack to
further work on the facts and direct experience.
Sometimes it helps to go out and get more information before
proceeding on a specific topic.
students discuss the relationship between "success" and
do each of these terms mean? Are
they the same thing? Does
success bring happiness? Can
people be happy if they are not successful?
Web addresses for sites containing information about Introduction
to Engineering or Introduction
to Engineering Technology courses, including syllabi.
These will be linked from the Discovery Press web page: www.discovery-press.com.
Send web addresses by e-mail to:
Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career, Second Edition,
by Raymond B. Landis,
will be available June, 2000
Press is pleased to announce that the Second Edition of Studying Engineering: A Road Map to a Rewarding Career will be
available in June, 2000.
Over 40,000 copies of the first edition of the text
have been shipped since it was first published in June, 1995.
An updated version of the text was issued in June, 1997.
Over 300 institutions in the United States and Canada have adopted
the text for use in Introduction to Engineering courses, summer bridge
programs, and freshman orientations, with a number of institutions
requiring it for use by their entire engineering freshman class.
The text has also been well received by high school teachers and
counselors and by high school students.
The Second Edition will represent a substantial
revision of the First Edition with the following changes:
dated material will be updated
index will be added
addresses will be greatly expanded
topics on student success strategies will be included
topics will be rewritten to provide improved clarity
problems will be added at the end of each chapter
One obvious strategy for strengthening students'
commitment to engineering is to provide them with exciting
"hands-on" projects that are both fun and teach them basic
engineering principles. The
following is a review of a book that can provide you with lots of ideas
for paper airplane projects and contests.
The book is available through www.amazon.com.
The World Record Paper Airplane
Ken Blackburn and Jeff Lammers
Workman Publishing Company, 1994
With the proper amount of lift, the thrust of a
good throw, very little drag, and lots of stability, you might do it¾fly a
paper airplane into the record books the way Ken Blackburn did.
Now this aerospace engineer and
paper airplane world record-holder teams up with Jeff Lammers, a
mechanical engineer, to create an everything you need resource for
beginning and experienced flyers alike.
Mixing science, innovation, and enthusiasm, The
World Record Paper Airplane Book features 100 full-color,
ready-to-fold airplanes (sixteen models, multiple copies of each), ranging
from the simple to the sophisticated.
Each airplane is easy to make and has numerically folded marks with
illustrated step-by-step instructions.
In addition, the book offers a wealth of information about aviation
and flying: how planes work, how to perform tricks and fine-tune for
speed, and how to stage contests. And
to make your flight sessions more exciting, there's a full-color pullout
landing strip for accuracy practice and a flight log to record your times.
The World Record Paper
Airplane Book will set you on an unforgettable aeronautical journey,
whether you're an armchair pilot or aviation professional.
Minority Engineering Programs (MEPs) focus their efforts on constructing
the components of the MEP model to increase the retention and achievement
of students, one often overlooked criteria is that of getting the
students' buy in or commitment. This
oversight leaves many MEP administrators frustrated over lack of student
participation and in a state of second-guessing their effectiveness.
This mistake is analogous to selling a product that no one is
interested in buying. Recall
the “new” Coca-Cola as one example of this strategy.
So how do you
get the student to buy what you are selling?
One approach is to let the data do the talking.
You could give or show students comparative retention data and let
them convince themselves that participating in academic activities is in
their best interest. Another
is to counsel the students and appeal to their intelligence and maturity.
It is logical to
think that because students are declaring the same field of study
(engineering) and that they will be enrolled in the same sections of
mathematics, chemistry and language art courses, that they will naturally
gravitate toward programs that offer collaborative learning activities,
course clustering, study facilities and other retention strategies.
The reality is that most students bring with them their own
pre-conceived model of what college is like and how to go about succeeding
in this arena.
The MEP at
Colorado School of Mines (CSM) established their community building model
by implementing collaborative learning through Academic Excellence
Workshops (AEW), a study center, an exam simulation program, and a
peer-mentoring program. The
programs were adopted and used by the students.
First and second year participation rates for all programs were at
50 percent. The next
challenge was for the MEP to reach out and involve the remaining 50
percent of its population. The
MEP model was refined and driven harder and this improved participation
rates to 60 percent. After reviewing responses from student focus groups, the MEP
staff decided that a method of engaging the students before they became
overwhelmed by their first year in college had to be developed.
The Freshman Retreat
the Colorado School of Mines, the MEP has enhanced a vehicle that allows
for an interactive activity to expose students to success strategies.
This vehicle is called the MEP Freshman Retreat.
The Freshman Retreat allows MEP to "sell" the components
of its academic resources to the students.
In this fashion, MEP generates student excitement for its services
and builds the foundation upon which the academic community rests.
features six competitions that highlight collaborative learning, the need
for an MEP, student development and maturity, academic programs, and
professional development. The
program uses successful returning students to serve as team coaches and
officials. The coaches pass
on peer knowledge about MEP and the University.
The officials provide feed back on the student’s assignments
throughout the Retreat. The
MEP staff introduces topics from the text Studying
Engineering by Ray Landis such as collaborative learning and community
building, via brief workshops before each competition.
These topics are reinforced and discussed in an in depth manner
during the CSM 101 course in the fall semester.
workshop the student teams meet with their coaches to strategize and
compete in the form of a skit or essay that examines and reveals thier
motivation and commitment to being successful.
The students also begin forming relationships that form the basis
of their future learning community. The
Retreat is one and a half days in length, with a fun awards ceremony at
the end to crown the champion team.
the Retreats' inception in 1995, retention has increased to 92 percent and
participation in the MEP program has grown to 85 percent for all its
students. Minority student
graduation rates and academic achievement have doubled.
The most notable factor is the increased participation rate of
minority students in MEP and the CSM community.
These activities include the Academic Excellence Workshops (AEWs),
community outreach projects, peer mentoring program, campus leadership
positions, and use of the MEP and departmental study centers.
participation for these activities are tracked and logged to be used
during advising sessions and MEP program evaluations.
Participation in AEWs was moderate in the fall of 1996 but this
fall semester all AEWs are full and expansion is being explored.
First year students request to be coaches and officials for next
year’s freshman class. Another
example of the leveraging effect of the interactive Freshman Retreat is
during our CSM 101 course. This
is CSM’s version of an “Introduction to Engineering” course and is a
degree requirement. Due to
the Retreat, the learning cohort is established before the first class
meeting. Using techniques,
such as the name game, is more animated because students are familiar with
one another. This facilitates
the forming of study groups and a highly interactive class setting
especially during open discussion and student class presentations.
program that focuses on internships and professional development has been
created at the request of upper-class students who participated as
freshman and as coaches and officials in subsequent years.
The “Professional Development Weekend” is a one and a half-day
event that is open to the first 150 students that sign up to participate.
This program has filled the past three years within a month of
opening enrollment. A final
example of the impact of the Retreat is that MEP students readily
participate in community outreach programs and corporate information
Freshman Retreat model has successfully been replicated by MEPs at other
institutions such as UT Austin and Cal State L.A.
is a very important word in the College of Engineering.
Civil engineers use suspension bridges to span wide and deep canyons, ravines, and other
geological cracks in the Earth's surface. Mechanical engineers design suspension
systems to smooth out the ride in cars and trucks.
Petroleum and chemical engineers use suspensions
to move sediments and other non-soluble materials with fluid flow.
Finally, electrical engineers and computer scientists keep us in suspension
as we await new developments in electronics and software.
It should come as no surprise that the College of Engineering deals
with student academic suspensions
in unconventional and unique ways.
The College of Engineering has a policy where
students who earn a suspension
are suspended until they have
developed an academic plan to prevent the reoccurrence of previous
problems. Students who come
to the dean's office and analyze the cause of their poor academic
performance and who develop an academic contract to follow known
strategies for success are allowed to continue their education at the next
available opportunity, which might be the following semester.
Students with known or strongly suspected interference factors,
such as drug or serious alcohol usage, learning disabilities, emotional
problems associated with grief and stress, financial problems, and medical
problem of depression, manic depression cycles, low blood sugar, etc. are
denied a contract until a positive action is taken by the student to solve
or at least work around the problem.
Our focus is to achieve a change in the process that leads to
improved quality control in academic performance.
Time allows processes to occur, but time does not cause a change in
Among the suspended
students we readmit, about 70 percent are successful in achieving a 2.0
GPA or better. We do have a
small percentage of students who achieve success for one semester and then
cycle back to poor behavior. If
these students trip an additional suspension,
they are denied re-entry to the College of Engineering.
At this point, we have nothing new to improve academic performance,
and we prefer that students with non-professional behavior not wear the
title of a College of Engineering, Texas Tech University graduate.
We are willing to suspend our rules under special cases where a department chair or
faculty member assumes the responsibility to mentor and help the
struggling student. We also suspend our rules when a respected faculty member from a junior or
community college highly recommends the student return to our college
based on a strong improvement in academic performance.
recommend that other colleges suspend
traditional views of suspension
and develop a more sustainable academic policy.
We believe this policy is supportive of our educational goal of
starting the life long learning process.