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Candy Land: Engaging Students in Class

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Let’s Get Pumped: Innovative Approaches for Better Student Engagement

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Tonya Lynn Nilsson P.E. Santa Clara University

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Tonya Nilsson is a Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at Santa Clara University (SCU), where she is also one of six Faculty Associates in their Collaborative for Teaching Innovation. Prior to joining SCU, Tonya was an Associate Professor at CSU - Chico.

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Camilla M. Saviz P.E. University of the Pacific

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Camilla Saviz is Professor and Chair of Civil Engineering at the University of the Pacific. She received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University, an M.B.A. from the New York Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Davis. She joined Pacific in 1999 and is a registered Professional Engineer in California.

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David A Saftner University of Minnesota Duluth

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David Saftner is an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He received a BS in Civil Engineering from the United States Military Academy and MS and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan.

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Social media, cell phones, Candy Crush, the crossword in the student newspaper, and worries about the exam in the next class are among the many distractors competing for students’ attention in class. Teaching in this potentially distraction-filled environment can pose significant challenges for instructors. Use of active learning techniques such as in class activities, problem solving exercises, discussions, and questioning draw students’ attention to the task at hand and help keep them engaged. Effective use of humor and fun are important tools in this endeavor.

In this paper, the value of candy as a teaching tool is addressed. Survey results from engineering courses at three universities will highlight if students find the use of candy childish and/or distracting, or if candy increases their motivation to actively participate. Example applications include use of candy in demonstrations, as incentives to point out errors on the board or in the notes, as recognition for a job well done, or to just brighten a particularly challenging time of the semester when exhausted students suffer from short attention spans.

Nilsson, T. L., & Saviz, C. M., & Saftner, D. A. (2017, June), Candy Land: Engaging Students in Class Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28005

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