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Board 64: Work In Progress: Mastery-Based Grading in an Introduction to Circuits Class

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

ECE Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Noah Salzman Boise State University

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Noah Salzman is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University, where he is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and IDoTeach, a pre-service STEM teacher preparation program. His work focuses on the transition from pre-college to university engineering programs, how exposure to engineering prior to matriculation affects the experiences of engineering students, and engineering in the K-12 classroom. He has worked as a high school science, mathematics, and engineering and technology teacher, as well as several years of electrical and mechanical engineering design experience as a practicing engineer. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College, his Master's of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Doctorate in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Kurtis D. Cantley Boise State University


Gary L. Hunt Boise State University

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Gary Hunt a Special lecturer for the Engineering Science Department at Boise State University. Dr. Hunt received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Idaho, his M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Colorado State University, and his B.S. in Engineering Science from Northern Arizona University. His educational research interests include freshmen STEM programs and the development of Scientific Reasoning in students.

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The primary aim of this project is to restructure an introduction to electric circuits course with a mastery-based grading approach. Introduction to Circuits is a critical prerequisite for many of the required courses in the electrical and computer engineering (ECE) curriculum and presents a significant stumbling block for many students. Historically, the class had a lower than desired DWF rate, and even students who successfully completed the class were often unable to apply what they learned in future courses. To address these issues, we implemented a mastery-based learning approach where students will be required to fully understand and apply specific critical topics and methods in order to pass the course and move forward in the program. This project will help create a more positive student learning experience that also translates to improved long-term performance. In this paper, we will describe the process through which we developed and implemented mastery learning in an introduction to circuits class. This includes determining mastery topics, differentiating critical and non-critical learning outcomes, developing assessment items, designing quizzes and exams for mastery-based learning, and implementing systems for tracking students’ master of topics throughout the course.

To assess the effectiveness of this intervention, we collected data on students’ attitudes towards mastery grading midway and at the end of the semester. Preliminary results suggest that students appreciate repeated opportunities to be able to demonstrate their mastery of course content and did not have difficulty adapting to a new grading style. In addition to these data, we will also present graphs displaying students’ mastery of topics as a function of time through the semester, which illustrates students’ different pathways to mastery through the course.

Overall, mastery-based grading represents a good alternative to traditional tests that give students significantly less opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and grasp of a topic over the course of a semester. Sharing our experiences with implementing mastery-based grading in an introduction to circuits class will help other instructors adopt this approach in their classes and contribute to the success of their students.

Salzman, N., & Cantley, K. D., & Hunt, G. L. (2019, June), Board 64: Work In Progress: Mastery-Based Grading in an Introduction to Circuits Class Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32397

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