Exploring Academic Performance Paths and Student Learning Strategies in a Large Foundational Engineering Course

Jacob R Grohs, David B Knight, Glenda D Young, Michelle M Soledad
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Abstract


Situated in the second year of an engineering curriculum, undergraduate engineering mechanics courses represent a significant barrier to persistence in engineering. This study seeks to inform and improve these educational environments by examining academic performance paths over time in a course and explore how students in each path compare in the learning strategies they employ to engage with course content. Through online surveys, we gathered data on self-reported time spent engaging with course content before high-stakes testing in four large sections of a Statics course that were all taught by the same instructor. Cluster analysis identified groups exhibiting distinct performance paths, and one-way Welch’s F-tests with post-hoc comparisons explored differences between these clusters based on time spent engaging with course content through specific learning strategies. Differences across performance clusters were found primarily in the ways in which students spent time rather than total time spent. Solving problems independently was a strategy employed significantly more often by the highest-performing cluster of students. In contrast, a group of unsuccessful students in the course spent comparably less time solving problems independently but comparably more time solving problems with peers. From these results, we suggest how leveraging these findings might impact educational practice and guide future research.


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References


Grohs, J.R., Knight, D.B., Young, G.D., & Soledad, M.M. (2018). Exploring academic performance paths and student learning strategies in a large foundational engineering course. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology (IJEMST), 6(3), 241-253. DOI: 10.18404/ijemst.428175


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