Engineering retention data based on qualitative analysis of first-year seminar (ENGR 160) reflection one papers

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The research displayed in this thesis assesses whether there are any statistically significant reasons why perspective students have chose to attend Alfred University to study engineering in the year they did. Three questions were asked of 331 students in Reflection One essays that were written in ENGR 160; First-Year Seminar. The students were asked “why they chose Alfred University”, “why they chose engineering” and “why they were seeking this education now”. Through qualitative analysis, each type of response to one of the questions was given its own category. “Why they chose Alfred University” has 31 categories; “why they chose engineering” has 42 categories; “why they are seeking this education now” has 24 categories. An inter rater reliability of 90.1%, based on two independent coders, was achieved from a sample of the first 50 students from the entering class in 2015. The results are split into three types of groups: students that stayed at Alfred University, students that chose to leave Alfred University, and students that were asked to leave Alfred University. Each of the groups’ answers are compared against each other to see if there are any predictors in an individual’s response to the three questions that may indicate that specific group performance. The top five categories that Alfred University has control over that were answers to the question “Why Alfred University” are: Financial Benefit, Good Engineering School, Sports, Niche Major, and Networking Opportunities. Two of the top three categories that were answers to the question “Why Engineering” are enjoyed or excelled in the subjects of Mathematics, Science; Chemistry or Biology, Technology, and Physics or enjoyed the engineering classes offered at their high school. The highest responded category for answering the question “Why Now” suggests that this question lacks assessment value, i.e. should be discontinued. Student flow from declared major choices will also be assessed through a visual representation of data using Sankey diagrams.
Thesis completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Alfred University Honors Program.
Honors thesis, Education, Retention, Engineering