An evidence-based predictive tool for motivating engagement, completion, and success in freshmen engineering students

Thumbnail Image
Other Title
Fernando, Achela
Mellalieu, Peter
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Conference Contribution - Paper in Published Proceedings
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
engineering students
completion rate
Fernando, A., & Mellalieu, P. (2011). An evidence-based predictive tool for motivating engagement, completion, and success in freshmen engineering students. In Proceedings, 22nd Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education. Available from
In general, teachers deploy several methods to encourage their students to engage early with their learning during their course of study. These methods include: presentation of previous years’ pass/fail rates; feedback from previous students; and anecdotal evidence suggesting that active engagement, punctuality in attending lectures, and good performance in interim assessments will contribute to success. We postulate that engineering students will be more inclined to improve their behaviour if they are provided with quantitative evidence that adopting certain behaviours will enhance success and improve course grades. Furthermore, we postulate that students will embrace a conceptual and logical tool that allows them to take control of the course outcome they seek. A tool based on these principles has already been accepted and used enthusiastically by some students in another department at Unitec (Mellalieu, 2011). Inspired by the success of this approach, we have conducted a data mining analysis of previous students’ class attendance and assessment performance records to develop a similar tool for a freshman course within an undergraduate engineering programme at the same institution. The model underpinning the tool demonstrates empirically that better attendance in lectures and higher performance in interim summative assessments are associated with higher final examination results. Furthermore, the tool enables the lecturer to achieve early detection of ‘at risk’ and struggling students who may not achieve successful course completion without a significant intervention by the teacher, and/or change in behaviour by the student. At Unitec, a conscious effort is made to attract to engineering education students from communities whose participation hitherto has been low. Identifying and following up those who may be experiencing difficulties is crucial for their retention and maintaining diversity. All New Zealand tertiary institutes are now increasing their focus on successful completions (outputs) rather than the number of enrolments (inputs). The tool described is one useful approach to providing necessary and timely additional support to students at risk of failing to complete.
Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Link to ePress publication
Copyright holder
Copyright notice
All rights reserved
Copyright license