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Active And Collaborative Learning Exercises For A First Course In Fluid Mechanics

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Outstanding Contributions to ME Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.143.1 - 13.143.34



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Paper Authors

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Stephen Turns Pennsylvania State University


Laura L. Pauley Pennsylvania State University

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Laura L. Pauley, Arthur L. Glenn Professor of Engineering Education and professor of mechanical engineering, joined the The Pennsylvania State University faculty in 1988. From 2000 to 2007, she served as the Professor-in-Charge of Undergraduate Programs in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. In 2003, Laura received the Penn State Undergraduate Program Leadership Award. Dr. Pauley teaches courses in the thermal sciences and conducts research in computational fluid mechanics and engineering education. She received degrees in mechanical engineering from University of Illinois (B.S. in 1984) and Stanford University (M.S. in 1985 and Ph.D. in 1988). She can be contacted at

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Sarah Zappe Pennsylvania State University

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Sarah E. Zappe is Research Associate and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support for the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at The Pennsylvania State University. Her expertise and research interests relate to the use of think-aloud methodologies to elicit cognitive processes and strategies in assessment and related tasks. In her position, Dr. Zappe is responsible for supporting curricular assessment and developing instructional support programs for faculty and teaching assistants in the College of Engineering. She can be contacted at

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



The education literature clearly shows that classroom instruction that requires students to actively participate is superior to the teacher-centered lecture mode of instruction. Moreover, instructional activities that require student interaction and collaboration also promote learning. The superiority of active and collaborative learning to traditional methods applies to any number of measures.

To implement active and collaborative learning strategies in a junior-level fluid mechanics class, the authors have developed a number of in-class exercises. These exercises range from activities that consume a large portion of a class period to those that require just a few minutes, or less. Although many instructors may see the benefits of active and collaborative learning strategies, they may be reluctant to use them in their classes because they lack information on how to apply them to specific mechanical engineering subjects. Here we present twenty-three in-class exercises useful for instruction in a first course in fluid mechanics. The attributes of each exercise are delineated. These attributes include the approximate amount of class time required, the degree of collaboration involved (individual effort, pairs, or groups of three or four students), the educational objectives, and the specific subject area(s).

Survey results show that our students are highly receptive to these collaborative learning exercises, welcoming them over a traditional lecture format. We also show that these exercises may be adapted readily by others and present limited evidence illustrating their effectiveness in improving student learning.


We follow Prince1 and define active learning as a classroom activity that requires students to do something other than listen and take notes. In such activities, students respond to a situation presented by the instructor by writing, sketching, discussing, formulating, solving, or responding in some other designated way. We further adopt Prince’s1 definition of collaborative learning as an instructional method that requires students to interact in some way to achieve a common goal.

A wealth of information exists showing the effectiveness of both active and collaborative learning in achieving a wide range of educational outcomes.1-5 Prince provides an excellent summary.1 For example, research shows that active learning is superior to the traditional lecture approach in the following measures:1, 6-9

Short-term retention of subject matter Long-term retention of subject matter Conceptual understanding Positive student attitudes Motivation for further study

Turns, S., & Pauley, L. L., & Zappe, S. (2008, June), Active And Collaborative Learning Exercises For A First Course In Fluid Mechanics Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3178

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