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A Novel Assessment Methodology For Active Learning Modules To Equitably Enhance Engineering Education

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Trends in Mechanical Engineering I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.75.1 - 14.75.20



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Paper Authors

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Ashland Brown University of the Pacific


Kris Wood University of Texas

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KRISTIN WOOD is the Cullen Trust Endowed Professor in Engineering and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Wood’s current research interests focus on product design, development, and evolution. The current and near-future objective of this research is to develop design strategies, representations, and languages that will result in more comprehensive design tools, innovative manufacturing techniques, and design teaching aids at the college, pre-college, and industrial levels. Contact:

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Kristen Kaufman Grad Student Universiy ot Texas

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Kristen Kaufman received her Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Texas at Austin in Mechanical Engineering, where she worked as an undergraduate research assistant. After working for ConocoPhillips as a corporate intern, she returned to UT Austin to pursue her graduate degree in the field of Manufacturing and Design. Her current research interests include transformation design and engineering education, focusing on bringing learning to early childhood education.

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Daniel Jensen United States Air Force Academy

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DAN JENSEN is a Professor of Engineering Mechanics at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has worked for
Texas Instruments, Lockheed Martin, NASA, University of the Pacific, Lawrence Berkeley
National Lab and MacNeal-Schwendler Corp. His research includes development of innovative design methodologies and enhancement of engineering education. Contact:

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Joseph Rencis University of Arkansas


Christina White Columbia University

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CHRISTINA WHITE is a doctoral candidate in the Curriculum and Teaching Department at Columbia University. Her research focus is in engineering education with particular emphasis in both engineering diversity and humanitarian design projects. She earned a M. Ed from The University of Texas at Austin in Special Education. Contact:

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Novel Assessment Methodology for Active Learning Modules to Equitably Enhance Engineering Education

Abstract Active learning consists of pedagogical approaches to address the broad spectrum of students in engineering programs and their varied educational backgrounds and demographics. In this paper, the focus is on a particular type of active learning module, known as tutorials. We have developed and assessed 12 Finite Element based learning modules covering a number of fundamental topics in Mechanical, Electrical, and Biomedical Engineering. As part of this research, we have developed more fundamental and informative assessment strategies for active learning approaches. The intent of this extended assessment process is to discover potential inequities across a range of demographic and student-learning variables. In particular, the results of the pre- and post-quizzes are correlated with demographic and student-learning variables. Statistical analysis is used to determine if certain student groups benefit more from the learning modules than other groups. Results of this process show that, overall, the finite element tutorials lead to enhanced student learning (compared to a “control” group) and can span across student demographics without undo preference for certain student learning styles or personality types. However, certain cases do exist where unique learning styles or personality types respond more positively to this pedagogical technique than others. The opportunity for iterative feedback will lead to subsequent improvements. The most important, and contributory, result is an exciting new algorithm to perform this type of assessment across active learning approaches.


As educators move forward in advancing engineering education, active learning tools are a viable choice for addressing how students struggle with complex topics in engineering, especially as a function of their backgrounds, demographics, and personality types. In order to get beyond the typical road bumps encountered when teaching difficult application methods, contemporary methods are being developed that seek to engage students actively, both inside and outside the classroom, as well as kinesthetically through the varied human senses. Such approaches have the potential to improve student comprehension and knowledge retention, and, most importantly, to increase students’ interest in the material51.

Assisting students in the learning of imperative analysis tools is especially important with the current techniques used in industry. One such technique is finite element analysis. The finite element (FE) method is widely used to analyze engineering problems in commercial engineering firms. It is an essential and powerful analytical tool in designing products with ever-shorter development cycles6-8. In the past, consulting firms needed Ph.D. and M.S. engineering graduates to analyze designs with FE, but recently these firms6,8 are asking their B.S. and A.A.S. engineering graduates to learn and apply this complex analysis technique. In many undergraduate programs, the FE method is not taught as a required element thus graduates often lack knowledge of the proper use of this tool26,27. Two principle reasons for this are: 1. Introducing new material in curriculum typically requires the removal of other material (possibly essential by the faculty and ABET.) This approach must be balanced with the recent push to reduce total credit hours of programs nationwide.

Brown, A., & Wood, K., & Kaufman, K., & Jensen, D., & Rencis, J., & White, C. (2009, June), A Novel Assessment Methodology For Active Learning Modules To Equitably Enhance Engineering Education Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5682

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015