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Achieving coherent and interactive instruction in engineering mechanics

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Teaching with Technology

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.134.1 - 23.134.8



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Paper Authors


Caleb H Farny Boston University

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Caleb Farny received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University in 2007, working in the area of thermal deposition from acoustically-driven cavitation in tissue media. Following a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, he returned to the Dept of Mechanical Engineering at Boston University, where he is a Lecturer.

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Sean B Andersson Boston University

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Sean B. Andersson received a B.S. in engineering and applied physics (Cornell University, 1994), an M.S. in mechanical engineering (Stanford University, 1995), and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering (University of Maryland, College Park, 2003). He has worked at AlliedSignal Aerospace and Aerovironment, Inc. and is currently an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering and of systems engineering with Boston University. His research interests include systems and control theory with applications in scanning probe microscopy, dynamics in molecular systems, and robotics.

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Achieving Coherent and Interactive Instruction in Engineering MechanicsOur introductory Statics and Strength of Materials course has recently undergone a revision inthe lecture format and course organization, due to consistent feedback from students and faculty.As a service course to the College of Engineering, the student enrollment is high, resulting infive sections taught by 3-5 faculty members. Section-to-section disparity was a common concernraised by the students throughout the semester, since inconsistencies in pace and depth of thematerial presentation was inevitable and common. Increased exposure to example problems wasanother common request.This talk will describe the new version of the course and compare student outcomes with thosefrom the traditional course format. The traditional lecture format consisted of a standard 110-minute lecture by a faculty instructor. In the new format, a faculty instructor teaches each lecture,with assistance from a graduate teaching fellow (TF) and 1-2 undergraduate learning assistants(LA). The lecture period is organized into a structured Presentation-Learning-Discussion (PLD)Cell that is presented twice per lecture: (1) Presentation: The faculty instructor presents a 15-20 minute lecture on new concepts. (2) Learning: An active learning example is presented, and students form 4-persongroups to solve the problem over a period of 15 minutes. The instructor, GTF, and LAs circulatethroughout the hall to assist in understanding the problem. (3) Discussion: The class re-convenes and the instructor leads a class discussion tohighlight correct and incorrect steps exposed from the group work.The active learning environment is improved by providing real-time feedback on the steps takenby the groups to solve the problem. Each group is supplied with a wireless-enabled tablet,allowing the students to draw out the relevant Free Body Diagrams and equilibrium analysis. Thework is transmitted to the instructor’s computer, allowing the instructor to visualize and discusscommon misconceptions about the material. To help achieve uniformity amongst the multiplecourse sections, a common library of group examples and images is shared amongst the coursefaculty. The students’ work is posted online following lecture, for future review.Two sections of the course were taught by the same instructor in the Spring 2012 semester. Onesection followed the traditional lecture format, while the other section piloted the new format.Both sections received the same course assignments, and covered the same example problemsand course material. A comparison of student performance and course feedback assessment,based on section and lecture format, indicates that the new format improves the students’comprehension of the course material, and motivation and interest in the course.

Farny, C. H., & Andersson, S. B. (2013, June), Achieving coherent and interactive instruction in engineering mechanics Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19148

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