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Alignment of Preparation via First-year Physics Mechanics and Calculus Courses with Expectations for a Sophomore Statics and Dynamics Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Teaching Dynamics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.153.1 - 22.153.10

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Paper Authors


Kristi J. Shryock Texas A&M University

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Kristi J. Shryock is a Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. She received both a B.S. and M.S. in
Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M and received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Engineering at Texas A&M in May 2011. Her research work focuses on engineering education.

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Arun R. Srinivasa Texas A&M University, Department of Mechanical Engineering

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Prof. Srinivasa received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in 1986 and his Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently a professor in the mechanical engineering department and serves as a curriculum coordinator for the Freshman engineering program at the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University

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Jefferey E. Froyd Texas A&M University

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Jeffrey E. Froyd is the Director of Faculty Climate and Development at Texas A&M University. He served as Project Director for the Foundation Coalition, an NSF Engineering Education Coalition in which six institutions systematically renewed, assessed, and institutionalized their undergraduate engineering curricula, and extensively shared their results with the engineering education community. He co-created the Integrated, First-Year Curriculum in Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, which was recognized in 1997 with a Hesburgh Award Certificate of Excellence. He has authored or co-authored over 70 papers on engineering education in areas ranging from curricular change to faculty development. He is collaborating on NSF-supported projects for 1.) renewal of the mechanics of materials course, 2.) improving preparation of students for Calculus I, and 3.) systemic application of concept inventories. He is currently an ABET Program Evaluator and a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal on Engineering Education.

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Alignment of Preparation via First-year Physics Mechanics and Calculus Courses with Expectations for a Sophomore Statics and Dynamics CourseAnecdotally, engineering faculty members complain students taking sophomore engineeringscience courses are not prepared with respect to mathematics and physics. In response, facultymembers from mathematics and/or physics contend their courses have adequately preparedstudents in terms of needed knowledge and skills in their respective subjects. However, theseconversations are rarely supported by carefully analyzed data with respect to key questions.These questions include the following: • For sophomore engineering science courses, what is expected with respect to mathematical preparation? • For sophomore engineering science courses, what is expected with respect to preparation in physics mechanics? • To what extent are the expectations with respect to mathematics preparation aligned with the topics covered in first-year calculus courses? • To what extent are the expectations with respect to physics mechanics preparation aligned with the topics covered in first-year physics mechanics course?To answer the first two questions for a sophomore engineering course in statics and dynamics ata large public university, a doctoral student used Q-matrix theory to analyze all of the homeworkand exam problems to see what knowledge and skills in mathematics and physics mechanicswere needed to answer the questions. In addition to the analysis by the principal doctoral student,two doctoral students in mechanical engineering analyzed a set of randomly selected problems toprovide a check of the validity of the analysis. Instead of asking one or more engineering facultymembers for their expectations, analyzing homework and exam problems allowed the analysis tobe based on actual evidence from an offering of the course instead of perceptions of facultymembers about what they might want. From this analysis, a list of knowledge and skills inmathematics and physics mechanics was constructed.To answer the last two questions, the student compared the list of knowledge and skills to thesyllabi and table of contents for the first-year mathematics and physics mechanics courses. Thepaper will present results of these analyses and offer insights in terms of where the courses werewell aligned and where alignment could benefit from further attention. Hopefully, this analysiswill provide a firmer basis for future conversations about alignment between engineering sciencecourses and the first-year courses that are, in part, expected to prepare students for these courses.

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