Work in progress - Getting off the high horse, student over confidence with computational tools

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Michigan Technological University is one of the nation's largest engineering schools (900+ first year students) and houses a large common first year engineering curriculum. The goal of this curriculum is to introduce many of the fundamental components of engineering. One of these goals is the use of modern computational and programming tools to solve engineering problems. This paper focuses on the students' confidence with the use of computational tools. On the first day of class in the Fall of 2007, students were surveyed on their proficiency with the use of spreadsheets. Students self reported levels of proficiency from expert to no experience. Students were then asked a simple question regarding a spreadsheet cell equation. Only twenty percent of the students selected the correct answer, even though eighty percent ranked themselves as either: familiar, proficient, or expert spreadsheet users. Even more troubling is the fact that only one third of the self reported expert users selected the correct answer. A gender bias was noted, women under estimated their skills, while the opposite occurred for men. This study is significant because it lays the groundwork for creating an assessment plan to identify the preparedness of incoming students and skill at the end of the course. © 2008 IEEE.

Publication Title

Proceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE