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Engineering Program Coordinator Jim Maccariella Earns Outstanding Paper Award at National Conference


West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Engineering Science and Civil Engineering Technology Program Coordinator Jim Maccariella was a guest speaker at two national conferences in September, presenting the findings of his recent research.  Maccariella’s paper, entitled "Assessment of Research Methods Used to Identify Indicators for Engineering Student Success," focused on research he conducted about student performance in engineering courses. 

He presented the paper at the Virginia Educational Research Association's (VERA) National Conference, held in Charlottesville, Va., followed by a presentation at the Southeastern Association for Community College Research (SACCR) National Conference, held in Huntsville, Ala., where he was the recipient of the Outstanding Paper Award.

Maccariella notes that while job prospects for engineering graduates remain high, engineering programs throughout the nation experience a poor student success rate.  “A number of studies attempt to identify reasons for this lack of success, but results have been inconsistent,” he said. “This is troubling, because these conclusions help colleges develop institutional policies to improve student success.  If the conclusions are inconsistent, then our policies may be inconsistent too."

Maccariella reviewed 14 recent publications that investigated the indicators for students’ success in engineering programs.  Both cognitive indicators (such as SAT score, high school rank, grade point average, mathematics success rate, etc.) and non-cognitive indicators (confidence, presence of mentors, poor teaching, gender, ethnicity, etc.) were reviewed.  The research design method, and associated research limitations, were summarized.

Associate Professor Jim Maccariella

“I found that many studies did not use research methods that allowed for a cause-and-effect relationship; rather, most were only able to identify patterns or trends," he said, adding that while a study's results may provide some insight, they should not be generalized to a population in a different context, nor be used as a basis to inform policy.

Maccariella concluded by noting, “Choosing the appropriate research design method is paramount to drawing appropriate conclusions.  We should pursue the relevant rather than the measurable.”

Engineering Programs at Mercer

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