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Changing Student Behavior: It Can Be Done!

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Effective & Efficient Teaching Skills

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.319.1 - 11.319.16



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Paper Authors


Scott Hamilton U.S. Military Academy

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Scott R. Hamilton is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. He earned a B.S. degree from the United States Military Academy, in 1984 an M.S. degree in Civil Engineering and an M.S. Degree in Engineering Management from Stanford University in 1994.

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

Changing Student Behavior: It Can Be Done!


This paper presents some general observations extrapolated from the findings of on a two-year research project that the author feels have general applicability. The author suggests that although faculty members see many variables dealing with student behavior as unalterable, most are probably not. Common behaviors that are accepted include: coming to class unprepared, not doing the reading, not engaging in classroom discussion, not answering questions, turning in sloppy work, and turning in late assignments, to name but a few. The author does not accept the premise that such behaviors are unalterable. In the case of the specific research project the author conducted, the problem observed was that students seemed to regard their homework submissions as simply a product to be handed in, and the correctness of their solutions did not seem to concern them. Accepting this struck the author as the wrong approach in educating future engineers.

In the spring of 2004, the author instituted a methodology of peer review of all work handed in during the course aimed at improving the quality of student work in the Structural Analysis course (CE403). This effort became an iterative process, similar to any engineering design. The objective of the “design” was to increase student learning form the following sources: • interacting with their classmates • having to explain their own work • correcting mistakes and errors in others’ work • learning their own abilities and limitations • modeling the professional aspects of having work reviewed for correctness

After three iterations and several changes in the implementation of the methodology, the author was pleased with the result and satisfied that his goals were achieved. This paper will discuss the specific methodology, in an abbreviated form, but will strive to also reveal the author learned about implementing any such methodology aimed at changing student behavior. This paper will review some of the current research in the field and look at its implications for changing student behavior. The author will present his findings in terms of interim results of the efforts to change student behavior, student reaction to it, keys to success, and lessons learned.


“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that (Goethe).[1] This seems to imply a powerful charge to those of us dedicated to teaching. How often do we hear “that is just the way students are today”? Upon returning to teaching in the fall of 2003, after a six-year break, the author began to question whether he could change this behavior, or did he really have to accept it?

Hamilton, S. (2006, June), Changing Student Behavior: It Can Be Done! Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--806

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