The early identification of academic support needs of first year university engineering drawing students in a multicultural society

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Batteries of exercises requiring visualization in three dimensions were administered to more than 900 freshmen engineering students at the University of Cape Town in 1983, 1984 and 1985, and at the Cape Technikon in 1985. They were found to be consistently powerful predictors of performance in the midyear and final first year engineering drawing examinations. The cultural populations under consideration consisted of students classified by statute as "Black", "White" and "Coloured". By law most pupils in each ethnic group are educated within separate education systems in South Africa. Cultural differences existing between ethnic groups tend to be reinforced by these three different education systems and by socio-economic classes which tend to be distributed along racial lines. Although individual students with gross spatial disabilities were identified in all three ethnic groups, the cross-cultural study carried out in this investigation illustrates the significant differences in the mean performances of students emerging from the three different education systems both in the spatial batteries and in the first year engineering drawing course at UCT. These differences are discussed in terms of language problems, educationally disadvantaged backgrounds and cultural differences. The spatial batteries were found to be the best predictors of engineering drawing examination results at tertiary level irrespective of cultural group, and are proving to be particularly useful for identifying students urgently in need of special academic support in engineering drawing right from the commencement of their course.

Bibliography: pages 125-132.