Faculty Perceptions on Undergraduate Engineering Education in First-Year Engineering, Physics, and Mathematics Courses
Examining the perceptions of first-year undergraduates and their instructors can provide insight into these students’ experiences and shed light on the emerging issues of student attrition and lack of preparedness for the workforce. Students’ perceptions about introductory courses have been examined in previous work. On the other hand, as the high rate of university student dropouts has frequently been attributed to the poor quality of teaching in first-year undergraduate courses, this study aims to investigate the perceptions of faculty members instructing first-year undergraduates. Our analysis results in several emergent themes, which include (1) instructor’s beliefs about Project-Based Learning as a teaching practice, (2) instructor’s level of abstraction when talking about students, (3) instructor’s affect towards students, (4) value instructors place on one-on-one interactions with students, (5) instructors’ perceptions of their role in development of student motivation and interest toward their courses, (6) instructors’ perceived ability to impact students, (7) overall teaching goals, and (8) instructors’ motivation towards teaching. From analysis of these emergent themes, there appear to be two distinct instructor groups. These groups, which we will refer to as Personal Coaches and Group Ushers, are observed to have different attitudes and expressed behaviors towards teaching and their students. These findings are important as they shed light into one aspect of undergraduates’ experience, that of faculty support in students’ academic development. The implications of these findings have a profound effect on how we educate the next generation of our national workforce and particularly STEM professionals and we suggest further investigations in this direction. Understanding faculty perceptions is a key step to affect STEM educational reform.