Creating a more positive experience for first year engineering students

O'Sullivan, C., Cooper, R., Cranley, F. and Robinson, P. (2006) Creating a more positive experience for first year engineering students. [Conference Proceedings]


In this paper the response of a School of Engineering to the challenge of creating a positive first year experience for a diverse profile of students is considered. To meet this challenge since 2003, the School has implemented a strategic approach, which seeks to identify early any engineering student who may be having difficulty adjusting to their first year of study and then promptly provides the appropriate cognitive and affective supports. In this paper the operation of the unit established to oversee this approach is outlined and the software tools, orientation activities, mentoring programme, learning styles inventory that were developed are described. The effectiveness of such an approach is examined using data from the academic years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 regarding usage of the unit, and the performance of the students. For example, in the first year of operation of the unit the percentage of first year students across the School retained rose from an average 60% prior to 2003 to 67% in the academic year 2003-2004 even though the proportion of the student cohort with lower prior educational achievements also increased. Finally the initial impact of the unit in prompting the necessary substantive, lasting changes in institutional culture regarding the experience of first year students is considered in light of the decision to extend the scheme to the first year students in other schools within the Institute.

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