Student reflections and using individual development plans (IDPs) for mentoring have been an integral part of an NSF S-STEM project focusing on students pursuing baccalaureate degrees in Engineering Technology (ET). The Engineering Technology Scholars – IMProving Retention and Student Success (ETS-IMPRESS) project provides financial support and offers students several high-impact curricular and co-curricular activities to increase the success of academically talented students. This interdisciplinary project brings together the Electrical Engineering Technology, and Computer Network and System Administration programs in the College of Computing and the College of Engineering’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program, with programs in the Pavlis Honors College, an inclusive and unique college designed around high-impact educational practices.
An IDP is commonly used in business and industry to assist employees in meeting short- and long-term goals in their professional career. This tool has been adapted for use in the educational setting in a faculty mentoring capacity. The ET program advisors assign the freshman or transfer S-STEM student scholars with faculty mentors to match their area of research interest. The faculty mentors meet with the students a minimum of three to four times a year to review their IDP, make suggestions, and provide input for reaching their goals. The goals of the IDP process are to develop a deeper more meaningful relationship between the advisor and student, reflect and develop a strategy for the scholar’s educational and career success, and manage expectations and identify opportunities. In the initial meeting there are several prompts for the student to write about their goals, strengths, weaknesses and perceived challenges. In subsequent meetings the advisor and student revisit the IDP to discuss progress towards those goals.
This study will describe some outcomes of the IDP process providing specific examples from each of the ET programs. Although it is difficult to measure the effect of these relationships, it is one of the high impact practices that have been noted as increasing student engagement and retention. The consequences of COVID-19 introducing a virtual environment to the IDP process will also be examined from the viewpoint of both student and advisor. An advantage of the IDP meetings for students is that advisors may provide personal business connections for internship opportunities and/or research projects that otherwise would not be discussed in a typical office hour or classroom session.
One of the innovations of the ETS-IMPRESS program was requiring participation in the Honors Pathway Program, which generally emphasizes intrinsic motivation (and does not use GPA in admissions or awarding of credentials). The honors program consists of three seminar classes and four experiential components; for all of these, students write reflections designed to promote their development of self-authorship. Preliminary survey results show no difference between ETS and other honors students in the areas of student motivation, intention to persist, and professional skill development. ETS students see a closer link between their current major and their future career than non-ETS honors students. A comparative analysis of reflections will investigate students’ perceptions of the program’s effect.
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