June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.75.1 - 14.75.20
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.
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