June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.88.1 - 22.88.12
A Prerequisite Skills Exam for Solid MechanicsAbstractA prerequisite skills exam has been created and evaluated for use in a sophomore-level course insolid mechanics. Many students typically struggle during their sophomore year in dynamics,solid mechanics, and fluid mechanics, and a solid foundation in statics may be the most criticalrequirement for success in these ensuing courses. Students who do not perform well here oftenlanguish in these sophomore-level classes for several more semesters, and may either completetheir degree with excessive poor marks on their transcripts or drop out of engineering altogether.Therefore, tools to help students perform strongly in the sophomore year can become retentionaids for engineering degree programs. The impetus for creating this prerequisite skills exam is toprovide a partial solution to these issues.The exam is administered at the beginning of the semester, testing the student on critical skillsthat should have been retained from statics and mathematics, skills which are deemed critical tosuccess in solid mechanics. This prerequisite skills exam has been implemented as a masteryexam, allowing the student multiple attempts to pass the exam, in the hope of increased studentsuccess. The exam is worth five percent of the total grade in the author’s solid mechanicscourse, and a passing score on the exam is intentionally high (at least sixteen of eighteenquestions must be correct for a passing score). This percentage towards the final solid mechanicsgrade is all-or-nothing. The first exam is administered at the second class meeting of thesemester, and subsequent opportunities for students to pass the exam are provided during theevenings in the subsequent two weeks. Students may attempt to pass the the exam up for sixtimes. Question topics include boundary reactions, shear force, and moment in a beam, centroidsand area moment of inertia of a composite cross-section, equivalent force systems, and unitsconversions.Evaluation of the effectiveness of this tool is taking several forms, including the separate gradingof two isolated portions of the solid mechanics final exam, and these portions directly correlateto questions on the prerequisite skills exam. Additionally, efforts to track student retention haveincluded finding correlations between student effort and performance on this exam and thetendency for a subset of students to advance slowly, if at all, in the engineering degree programs.This paper includes a description of the prerequisite skills exam, first implemented by the authorduring the Autumn 2007 semester, an evaluation of the effectiveness of the exam followingseveral qualitative and quantitative criteria, and the potential use of this exam as a retention toolin identifying at-risk students during their sophomore year.
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