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A Novel Approach to Mastery-based Assessment in Sophomore-level Mechanics Courses

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Assessment Strategies in Mechanics

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Paper Authors


Keith D. Hjelmstad Arizona State University

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Keith D. Hjelmstad is President's Professor of Civil Engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University.

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Amie Baisley University of Florida

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Amie Baisley is a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Education at the University of Florida. Her teaching and research interests are centered around the sophomore level courses that engineering students take and how changes in those courses can impact student learning and retention.

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The Mechanics Project, founded at Arizona State University, is a reimagination of the foundational mechanics courses that engineering students generally take in their sophomore year. The courses associated with the project (statics, dynamics, and deformable solids) were converted to a student-centered engaged learning environment with students spending most of their class time in a flipped recitation environment. The pedagogical transformation was complemented with the implementation of a novel assessment system based upon redundant demonstration of mastery of the course objectives. The assessment system requires two key things: (1) the definition of measurable course objectives that capture the fundamental concept strands—the DNA— of the course and (2) frequent assessment that incorporates the redundancy of demonstration required to confidently conclude mastery. The process of developing this system had a significant impact on the nature of the courses and informed the topical content and development of course materials. The main motivation for moving to a mastery-based grading system was to change the way students think about and experience assessment. The frequency of assessment reduces some of the stress of the testing environment and the redundancy promote a spiral learning approach that helps students connect the components of the problem-solving process. A simple grading rubric and feedback system was created to provide timely, meaningful, and detailed feedback on their progress with each specific learning objective. This paper will describe the learning objectives, the feedback the students receive following each assessment, and how mastery is assessed in each course.

Hjelmstad, K. D., & Baisley, A. (2020, June), A Novel Approach to Mastery-based Assessment in Sophomore-level Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34028

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