ChANgE Chem is a curriculum reform model that uses Design Challenges to translate chemistry concepts and laboratory protocols into contextualized problems and methods unique to the way engineering students are expected to learn, think and collaborate. This unique approach is designed to maintain motivation towards an engineering major in the first year while students are taking general chemistry requirements by helping them to better understand the profession and practice. For engineering majors, contextualizing the learning of chemistry in such a way is theorized to strengthen the connection between their knowledge of chemistry and its application in everyday work as an engineer, which should support persistence. This poster reports on a field study across the first semester course for three groups taking general chemistry laboratory for engineers, comparing outcomes for the use of the new curriculum with a more typical business-as-usual approach. This quasi-experimental study compared self-efficacy, academic and career persistence at four milestones for students taking the course in-sequence (fall) versus out-of-sequence (spring). From the institutional perspective, out-of-sequence students are different due to some outside factor(s), which imply that they may face greater persistence related issues. The results reveal a maintenance of self-efficacy across the semester for students using the new curriculum regardless of sequence, compared to an overall decrease for the business-as-usual group, which is what would be predicted by the literature as the norm. No changes in academic or professional persistence were detected for any groups. This suggests that the new curriculum can be effective for promoting academic persistence for students in the first year, regardless of when they take it. However, out-of-sequence students started with and finished with lower levels of self-efficacy, which supports the notion that sequencing is likely an indicator of issues that threaten their persistence. Plans for additional revision to the approach and further study are also discussed.
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