Date of Award

5-2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering

Advisor

Biggers, Sherrill B

Committee Member

Joseph , Paul F

Committee Member

Summers , Joshua D

Abstract

The Student-Centered Active Learning in Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) approach to instructional design was adapted with the goal of delivering more effective statics, dynamics and multivariate calculus instruction and integrated course curricula. Inquiry-based learning exercises were designed, incorporating material from statics and dynamics into multivariable calculus, and vice-versa, as well as integrating statics and dynamics into one course. Analysis included an exploration of student study habits, multiple measures of course effectiveness, and an examination of curricular effects. Challenges of implementation are also discussed.
Study habits of students in an integrated Statics and Dynamics course were assessed through a voluntary survey in order to determine which practices are the most helpful to the students. These data indicated that there are three distinct behavior patterns for these students (Help Seeker, Supplemental Instruction Dependent, and Minimalist), which lead to different levels of conceptual understanding of the material.
The effectiveness of the revised course designs and activities were assessed using a mixed method approach. Student performance in these courses and in follow-on courses was used to measure improvements in concept retention. Conceptual tests (Statics and Dynamics Concept Inventories) were administered before and after semesters, and average normalized gains were compared with those for students in traditional learning environments. Open-ended questions on end-of-semester course evaluations assessed student perceptions of the course format. Results indicate increases in conceptual measures in statics with SCALE-UP, significant reductions in failure rates for students in the integrated statics/dynamics course, and reduction in time to completion of statics and dynamics courses. Survey data indicate positive effects on students' use of learning resources, and anecdotal evidence demonstrates that students are continuing the patterns of peer instruction and positive interdependence in follow-on courses.
Based on these research findings, faculty development materials were generated that concisely state the pedagogical underpinnings of the method, provide evidence of success in our courses, and identify key aspects of successful implementation of SCALE-UP in engineering courses. These include effective use of learning assistants, well-designed learning activities, and formative assessment questions that emphasize learning objectives and guided inquiry. Course materials have been published, and efforts are under way to promote this as a mainstream teaching resource.
Mechanical Engineering students in both the old and new curricula (n= 316 and 366, respectively) were tracked to glean information about the paths students take as they progress through their degree program and the effects that the new integrated course has had on these paths. For each student, the number of attempts and grades for the courses of interest were recorded. Results indicate nearly the same proportion of students pass the integrated dynamics and statics course on their first attempt as pass both the separate courses on their first attempt at Clemson University. Students in the new curriculum are less likely to quit before completing the course sequence. As expected, it takes students less attempts to pass the new course than to pass both the old courses.
Details regarding implementation of this course are discussed. Challenges to achieving success in this new course have been many and demanding. These include (1) development of a dedicated textbook, (2) development of learning exercises to foster student comprehension, (3) reorganization of topical content including topic deletion and added emphasis on certain topics, (4) preparing faculty for change, (5) accommodating limited student maturity, and (6) dealing with widespread misgivings about the project.

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