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A Case For a Reform in Teaching Introductory, Fundamental Engineering Mechanics Courses

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Student Learning, Problem Solving, & Critical Thinking 3

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.19.1 - 24.19.16



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Paper Authors


Peggy C. Boylan-Ashraf Stanford University

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Dr. Peggy C. Boylan-Ashraf is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of solid mechanics and engineering education, particularly in the areas of a new paradigm in teaching introductory, fundamental engineering mechanics classes (statics, mechanics of materials, and dynamics).

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Steven A. Freeman Iowa State University

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Dr. Steven A. Freeman is a professor in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department. He coordinates the occupational safety option of the industrial technology degree program and the occupational safety certificate program for the department. His research interests are in agricultural and workplace safety and the scholarship of teaching and learning associated with safety, engineering, and technology curricula.

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Mack Shelley Iowa State University Orcid 16x16

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Mack Shelley is a Full Professor with joint appointment in the Departments of Statistics and Political Science. He holds the title of University Professor [“The University Professorship recognizes faculty members who have had a significant impact on their department(s) and the university in the course of their career at Iowa State University. In addition to outstanding performance in at least one of the following areas: teaching, research/creative activities, extension/professional practice, and institutional service, a University Professor must have acted as a change-agent to improve the quality with which the university carries out its mission.”]. From 2003-2007 he served as Director of the Research Institute for Studies in Education (where he also was Coordinator of Research from 1999-2003), and from 1999-2007 was a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. He served as Vice Chair of the Department of Political Science in 1993-1994, Director of the Public Policy and Administration Program and Director of Graduate Education in the Department of Political Science from 2008-2013, and Acting Chair of the Department of Political Science in Fall 2010. He currently is Faculty Fellow for Department Chair Professional Development in the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost and a Member of the Associate Provost’s Faculty Development Team.
His research, external funding, and teaching focus on applications of statistical methods to public policy and program evaluation, with emphasis on education policy and programs. He has received funding from numerous federal agencies, state agencies, and other organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Education, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, the Administration for Children and Families of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department on Aging, the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the City of Des Moines, the Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Iowa Board of Regents, the Pew Foundation, the Iowa Association of School Boards, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, and the American Judicature Society.
His publications include 19 books and monographs (several in multiple editions), 36 book chapters and encyclopedia articles, 118 refereed journal articles and refereed proceedings papers, and well over 200 other publications. He is lead editor of the National Science Foundation-funded book, Quality Research in Literacy and Science Education: International Perspectives and Gold Standards (Springer, 2009). From 1993-2002 he served as the elected co-editor of the Policy Studies Journal through the Policy Studies Organization and chaired the Donald Campbell Award Committee (for outstanding methodological innovator in policy studies) for the Policy Studies Organization in 2002. He was a member of the 2013 Best Dissertation Award committee for the Information Technology and Politics section of the American Political Science Association. He has served as Associate Editor for Research Papers and member of the Senior Editorial Board for the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Annual Editions: American Government and for Taking Sides: Political Issues (McGraw-Hill), member of the Editorial Board for Multiple Linear Regression Viewpoints, member of the Advisory Board of Studies in Educational Evaluation, member of the Editorial Board for the Melvana Journal of Education, co-editor of the International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, and member of the Editorial Board for The Sociological Quarterly.
He serves regularly as a statistical consultant for researchers, administrators, program staff, and students, and has received awards for research, teaching, and professional practice.

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A  CASE  FOR  A  REFORM  IN  TEACHING  INTRODUCTORY,  FUNDAMENTAL   ENGINEERING  MECHANICS  COURSES Introductory, fundamental engineering mechanics (IFEM) courses, such as staticsof engineering, mechanics of materials, dynamics, and mechanics of fluids, have far toolong been focused on intense mathematical and theoretical concepts. Bold newmethodologies that connect science to life using active learning pedagogies need to beemphasized more in engineering classrooms. This study investigated the role of a newparadigm in teaching IFEM courses and attempts to contribute to the current nationalconversation in engineering curriculum development of the need to change engineeringeducation—from passive learning to active learning. Demographic characteristics in thisstudy included a total of 4,937 students, of whom 4,282 (86.7%) are males and 655(13.3%) are females, over a period of seven years, from 2006 to 2013. The students’majors included aerospace engineering, agricultural engineering, civil engineering,construction engineering, industrial engineering, materials engineering, and mechanicalengineering. Results of the study, as tested using an independent samples t-test and validatedusing a nonparametric independent samples test and a general linear univariate modelanalysis, indicated that overwhelmingly there is a difference between classes taughtpassively using the teacher-centered pedagogy and classes taught actively using thestudent-centered pedagogy. The principal focus of this work was to formulate a convincing argument usingdata accumulated over seven years that a new paradigm utilizing student-centeredpedagogies in teaching IFEM courses should be more emphasized, to move engineeringcurriculum towards a more active and student-centered state. After evaluating the effectsof several variables on students’ academic success, the results may provide importantinformation for both faculty and researchers and present a convincing argument to thosefaculty interested in a reform but hesitant to abandon conventional teaching practices. Bypromoting this new paradigm, the potential for improving understanding of engineeringfundamentals on a larger scale may be realized.    

Boylan-Ashraf, P. C., & Freeman, S. A., & Shelley, M. (2014, June), A Case For a Reform in Teaching Introductory, Fundamental Engineering Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19911

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