Optimizing student-faculty rapport for the engineering classrooms: Dimensioning the behaviors that matter

Fethiye Ozis, Kyle Nathan Winfree

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This research paper describes the findings from an exploratory study. Student retention in engineering disciplines, from program initiation through commencement, is recognized as a challenge by higher learning institutions across the US. Numerous studies have identified that professors who can establish strong and positive rapport with their students have an immediate and positive impact on students' learning, engagement, motivation and academic success, resulting in a positive long-term influence on retention. Previous work has defined fifteen specific faculty behaviors that establish positive rapport between students and professors in other disciplines. However, these past studies may not be generalizable for engineering, and fall short of identifying the differences across student academic maturity and engineering discipline. Given the potential for strong impact on engineering students' experiences, and faculty resource limitations, we sought to elucidate if some behaviors have a higher potential for impact than others, and if so, which faculty behaviors may best contribute to building faculty-student rapport. With these insights, engineering faculty can be trained to selectively focus on those which are expected to have the greatest return on investment. To support the primary aim, students from multiple disciplines in an engineering college were surveyed and asked to rank their perceptions of faculty behaviors that best establish rapport with engineering students. The survey asked students to self identify their gender. This was used to identify how these factors may influence ranking of rapport supportive behaviors. Additionally, this survey asked students both their academic program (the discipline within engineering) and their degree progression, in order to identify how these factors impact such rankings. Based on findings in the literature, and given the scope of this project, the authors anticipate that the most effective way to broaden students' retention in engineering education is through establishing rapport between engineering professors and their students. Using the results of this study, we can design interventions aimed at faculty member's ability to establish positive rapport, which in turn creates a respectful environment, and removes the barriers to cultivation of diverse student retention in engineering disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1060
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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