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Competency Based Assessment in Dynamics

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 11

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Kurt M DeGoede Elizabethtown College

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Professor of Engineering and Physics, Elizabethtown College. His research interests in biomechanics include developing clinical instruments for rehabilitation. Dr. DeGoede teaches upper-level undergraduate mechanical engineering and design courses and the first-year introduction to engineering course. He is also developing a collaborative study abroad program in West Africa built around social enterprise initiatives.

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This paper will examine the effectiveness and limitations of implementing a competency-based grading system in Engineering Dynamics. Rather than assessing the students on how well they performed the many skills studied (traditional grading system) students were assessed on how many skills they can do well (competency or mastery-based grading).

To earn a passing grade in the competency-based grading system, students demonstrated proficiency on two foundational skills for dynamic analysis. Proficiency required solving a problem in a test environment, assessed as correct or containing only trivial errors. In our curriculum, prerequisites are met with a grade of C- or higher. To earn this grade, students must have further demonstrated competency in two additional skills, determined as required for continued advanced study in dynamics. Students could demonstrate proficiency on additional skills to earn higher grades. Each skill increased the final letter grade by 1/3 of a grade.

I was able to compare the rate at which students demonstrated proficiency in an exam setting by completing an analysis with only trivial errors (2016 and 2017 competency-based offerings of the course), with a similar group of students who were assessed with a more traditional grading system (2014 offering). In the competency-based courses, >93% of the students demonstrated proficiency on the required skills, compared to 43% in the traditional offerings (Chi-Squared p<0.01).

Several aspects of course design can help foster the successful use of the competency-based system of assessment. A structure where the additional skills are not co-dependent for developing competency allows the course to have no more than two independent groups of students. A physical classroom environment conducive to managing parallel groups students working on different sets of skills fosters effective use of class time. Students move at different rates, so the instructor must create frequent opportunities to demonstrate competencies.

DeGoede, K. M. (2018, June), Competency Based Assessment in Dynamics Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30212

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