Confidence in and beliefs about first-year engineering student success

Case study from KU Leuven, TU Delft, and TU Graz

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This paper explores the confidence starting first-year engineering students have in being successful in the first study year and which study-related behaviour they believe to be important to this end. Additionally, this paper studies which feedback these students would like to receive and compares it with the experiences of second-year students regarding feedback. To this end, two questionnaires were executed: one within three European higher education institutes with freshman engineering students and one with second-year engineering students in one institute.
The results show that starting first-year engineering students are confident regarding their study success. This confidence is, however, higher than the observed first-year students’ success. Not surprisingly, the students have good intentions and believe that most academic activities are important for student success. When students look back on their first year, their beliefs in the importance of these activities have strongly decreased, especially for preparing classes and following communication through email and the virtual learning environment. First-year students expect feedback regarding their academic performance and engagement. They expect that this feedback primarily focuses on the impact of their future study pathway rather than on comparison to peer students. Second-year students indicate that the amount of feedback they receive could be improved, but agree with the first-year students that comparative feedback is less important.