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Faculty-Student Interaction - FAQs
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  1. What strategies is ENGAGE promoting to improve Faculty-Student Interaction?
  2. How does increasing Faculty-Student Interaction  impact retention of engineering and computer science students?
  3. What are the ENGAGE Faculty-Student Interaction program activities?
  4. How do we know if Faculty-Student Interaction interventions are impacting retention?
  5. What do students and faculty think about the Faculty-Student Interaction strategies?
  6. What are the references for the FAQs?


1. What strategies is ENGAGE promoting to improve Faculty-Student Interaction?

ENGAGE promotes increasing faculty-student interaction through a variety of methods. Research has shown that these strategies have a powerful impact upon students’ satisfaction with and perseverance in engineering and computing fields.

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2. How does increasing Faculty-Student Interaction impact retention of engineering and computer science students?

Faculty approachability and accessibility have a direct impact upon students’ perceptions of their ability to succeed in engineering and computer science-- influencing GPA, academic confidence, and retention rates (Melsa, et al., 2009; Goodman & Cunningham, 2002; Lotkowski et al., 2004; Micomonaco & Stricklen, 2010; NAE, 2009; Vogt, 2008; Winters et al.,2010).  

 We know that lack of time, large classes and competing priorities are barriers to increased interaction with students. But using research-based, time-effective techniques, can change students’ perceptions of faculty approachability and access without a substantial time commitment. When faculty engage, students are more motivated, and more fun to teach (Lotkowski et al., 2004; Dweck, 2006). 

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3. What are the ENGAGE Faculty-Student Interaction program activities?

Although there are some options, based on the experiences of 38 ENGAGE schools, here are the activities that need to be included in your proposal. 

A. Identify faculty willing to host a Connections Class.

The University of Texas at Austin created Connections Classes as part of their work with ENGAGE.  ENGAGE has developed a toolkit that includes the information other schools need to host Connections Classes on their campuses. Over 17 faculty  and 1400 students in 24 classes at UT Austin have participated in a Connections Class to date. Students who attended a Connections Class felt the class helped them make connections between their courses and the real world including career paths.

Connections Class Description

As part of an introductory STEM course or freshman seminar, identify faculty willing to schedule 20 minutes of one class period as a Connections Class.  Connections Classes focus on enriched faculty-student interactions during the last 20 minutes of a class and may include discussion about the professor's research, work experience, outside interests or career exploration.  

ENGAGE will arrange a one-hour webinar and discussion on this topic for your STEM faculty at a mutually convenient time.  Your responsibility is to work with the dean’s office to recruit faculty to the webinar.  Your dean or other appropriate person will participate in the webinar by welcoming the faculty and introducing the topic. 
Using the ENGAGE ppt Research Based Time Effective Tips to Improve Faculty-Student Interaction as a guide, organize a one-hour seminar on campus for STEM faculty.
C. Conduct a Talk to Me Seminar for students
Talk to Me,  a 45-60 minute seminar includes a ppt presentation complete with notes and handouts.  It is designed to enhance the abilities of 1st and 2nd year undergraduate STEM students to initiate interactions with faculty which can increase their learning and result in greater satisfaction with their STEM educational experience.  A brief survey to assess the seminar is included in the materials as well as a one month follow-up survey asking about students' interactions with faculty as a result of their participation in Talk to Me.
Five ENGAGE schools piloted Talk to Me with 1st year students.  Students reported that the Talk to Me seminar increased their interest and confidence in meeting with a professor and  influenced their decision to meet with a professor.  Overall students were very pleased with the results of these meetings.
We encourage you to offer this seminar in formats that will be effective at your school e.g. SWE meeting, Women in Engineering Program, and student chapters of engineering and computer science professional societies to reach women and men.

4. How do we know if faculty-student interaction interventions are impacting retention?  

If positive faculty and student interactions are increasing, the research indicates (Melsa, et al., 2009; Goodman & Cunningham, 2002; Lotkowski et al., 2004; Micomonaco & Stricklen, 2010; NAE, 2009; Winters et al., 2010) that these experiences can have a profound impact on both students’ academic performance and on their perceptions of self-efficacy and enhance the likelihood of students persisting in STEM.   

If you are interested in tracking student retention and looking at the impact of faculty-student interaction practices, (and we hope you are), ENGAGE would be delighted to work with you.  Impact can be looked at through traditional course evaluation methods, NSSE data, retention data from individual institutions  and other options.

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5. What do students and faculty think about the faculty-student interacton strategies? 

Connections Classes Assessment

All students felt they learned something new from their instructor and 84% felt that there was value in the Connections Class.  They particularly enjoyed learning more about the professor, including his/her research, experiences, and life outside the classroom. Students felt the class helped them make connections between their engineering or computer science course and the real world, including career paths.

Students’ impressions of their professor during and after the Connections Class were quite positive. Some common themes from their comments were that the professor was knowledgeable and passionate about his work and research. Students also appreciated hearing about real-life applications and careers related to the course content.

After my professor's Connections Class lecture I decided that I wanted to try to get involved in the program he had mentioned. My professor sparked a new interest for me. I actually started trying to research new technologies used to dispose of toxic waste.

I felt my professor was setting an environment [where] we could feel more comfortable with the class in order to perform better. Also, by doing so we don't feel intimidated by the professor as we are with some others.

Research Based Time Effective Tips to Improve Faculty-Student Interaction: 

Over four hundred faculty and administrators have participated in webinars hosted by ENGAGE on this topic   Of the participants who responded to follow up surveys 70% said they found the presentation useful And 29% found it very useful.

When asked about the handouts that accompanied the webinar (Taking Action1 and Taking Action 2), participants said they were helpful, easy to read and easy to implement, a great resource and one recipient found them “fantastic!”.

I teach my classes in different classrooms. I used to walk with my head down, thinking about my next class. After participating in the ENGAGE webinar on faculty-student interaction, I decided to say hello to students as I walked to the next class.  The reaction from students was amazingly positive. 

Talk to Me  Evaluation
Talk to Me participants indicated that their participation in the seminar influenced their willingness to meet with a professor (84%), and increased their self confidence while meeting with a professor (88%).  Overall students reported that meeting with their professor produced positive results. Ninety-five percent of students indicated that they planned to meet with a professor in subsequent semesters as a result of their participation in the Talk to Me seminar.  
I thought Talk to Me was very helpful giving us a little nudge towards speaking with the professors. My interaction with a professor has taught me a lot.
I never realized that my professors were real people. Now I feel more comfortable talking to my professors about non-class material such as their research.

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6. What are the references for the FAQs?

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House: New York.

Goodman, I.F. & Cunningham, M.L. (2002). Final Report of the Women’s Experiences In College Engineering (WECE)

Lotkowski, V.A., Robbins, S.B., and Noeth, R.J.(2004). The Role of Academic and Non?Academic Factors in Improving College Retention. ACT, Inc. 

Melsa, J. L., Rajala. S.A., Moshen, J.P.(2009). Creating a Culture for Scholarly and Systematic Innovation in Engineering. Journal of Engineering Education.

Micomonaco, J. and Stricklen, J. (2010). Toward a Better Understanding of Academic and Social Integration: A Qualitative Study of Factors Related to Persistence in Engineering. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education 2010 Annual Conference, Louisville, KY. Session AC 2010?1467. 

National Academy of Engineering. (2009). New Directions in Engineering Excellence: Keeping Students Engaged. 

Vogt, C.M. (2008). Faculty as a Critical Juncture in Student Retention and Performance in Engineering Programs. Journal of Engineering Education. (97)1: 27?36.

Winters, K. Matusovich, H. and Streveler, R. (2010). How Student-Faculty Interactions Influence Student Motivations: A Longitudinal Study Using Self-Determination Theory. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education 2010 Annual Conference, Louisville, KY. Session AC 2010?1107. 

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