An Investigation of Prior Educational Achievement on Engineering Student Performance Jovanca Smith and Derek Gay
ABSTRACT This paper considers the effect of the educational history of students, as measured by specific subject grades in Caribbean examinations, on overall performance and student success in introductory engineering math and mechanics courses at the University of the West Indies. Graphical analysis reflects a strong positive correlation between high course specific Caribbean examination grades with a higher probability of successful advancement in the University courses. Alternatively, lower course specific grades are aligned with under-performance in the University courses. This evidence is significant as enrollment into the programme is determined through a summation of various course points rather than a specific achievement per course. Results also demonstrate that students matriculating with the Caribbean examinations will not necessarily possess a significant advantage over students entering through an alternative route, and while previous educational background of students is a significant indicator of tentative performance in the University level one math and mechanics courses, it is not the sole factor.
Updates - This paper is completed in full and authors are awaiting open call for papers for submission to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) 2019 engineering education annual conference for presentation and discussion, to be held June 16-19, 2019 in Tampa Florida.
On the Normalization of Bimodal Distribution Class Performance Using a Blended Learning Technique Jovanca Smith
Upon final assessment class performance grades traditionally demonstrate a normal distribution with a class average at peak. A normal distribution ensues for a sufficiently large sample size and many small variations in the sample that affect the grade. Grades of year one engineering students at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in Mechanics and Mathematics courses have not formed a normal distribution but rather a bimodal distribution. This suggests two normal distributions of two groups in the same classroom exist that are not solely based on small variations within the sample. A greater phenomenon has occurred to distribute the grades in this bimodal method with some students performing above a threshold value and other students performing below a threshold value.
There are numerous factors that can determine the success of a student in a class. Smith and Gay distinguished student performance from a cognitive perspective. The authors investigated effects of the Caribbean CAPE qualification to better aid matriculation of students in engineering based on data from an average of 320 undergraduate students per year over three years. Currently, students with any combination of points in required subjects can be accepted into UWI Engineering programmes: a combined score of 8 from either a grade II in both Pure Math and Physics or a random grade I and grade III combination. However, the research revealed that specific CAPE course results is a better predictor of the ability of students to excel in Math 1 and Mechanics university courses. Results demonstrated that students with a CAPE grade less than II in either Pure Math, Physics, or Chemistry may tend to perform below the threshold.
In the current context of diminished funding, additional summer pre-requisite courses is not available for students that may need the extra background material before commencing the engineering programme. Moreover, for students that are unsuccessful in these year I prerequisite courses, they automatically fall a year behind, and the overall throughput is reduced. A blended course or a flipped classroom is proposed for the results obtained in the previous study. These methods allow students with varied backgrounds to control the time, place, and pace of learning the course content. Students can review media like videos, podcasts, or online readings numerous times and to their advantage. Furthermore, students that have control over the time of day and the setting in which they learn can accelerate their learning.
Updates - This blended approach was successfully adopted for the introductory engineering mechanics course, and the grade distribution changed from a bimodal distribution to a normal distribution. The method proved successful at bridging the gap. A journal paper is currently in progress to submit to the European Journal of Engineering Education.
Reengineering the Capstone Design Project
The senior year Civil Engineering Capstone Design Project is intended to provide students with the opportunity to apply the analytic techniques and the methods of synthesis learned in the various courses which they have studied, to a specific individual design project. It is expected that in the process of executing this project students will take the time to reflect on the methods being employed and to assimilate the lessons of the previous years, putting them all into the perspective of Civil Engineering Design. Design is essentially a creative process, typically beginning with a design brief and project constraints, both technical and economic. Usually, a number of alternative solutions will be generated through a process of synthesis, and these will then be assessed and ranked by methods of analysis. While it is often argued that the techniques of design can only be acquired and mastered by dint of experience, there are various principles of civil engineering design which can be explored in this course and it is this which makes the Civil Engineering Design Project a unique learning experience. Every student can acquire skills and consolidate knowledge from the exercise, through exposure to practical engineering approaches to providing solutions to design problems.
Updates - Authors will be entering the third year of the research in the upcoming school year 2018-2019.