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Development and Assessment of an Inquiry-Based Learning Activity in Dynamics: A Case Study in Identifying Sources and Repairing Student Misconceptions

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Teaching Dynamics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.407.1 - 24.407.15



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Paper Authors


James M. Widmann California Polytechnic State University

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Jim Widmann is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He received his Ph.D. in 1994 from Stanford University. Currently he teaches mechanics and design courses. He conducts research in the areas of machine design, fluid power control and engineering education. He is a past Chair of the ASEE-DEED Division and a U.S. Fulbright Scholar.

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Brian P. Self California Polytechnic State University

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Brian P. Self obtained his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech, and his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Utah. He worked in the Air Force Research Laboratories before teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy for seven years. Brian has taught in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo since 2006. During the 2011-2012 academic year he participated in a professor exchange, teaching at the Munich University of Applied Sciences. His engineering education interests include collaborating on the Dynamics Concept Inventory, developing model-eliciting activities in mechanical engineering courses, inquiry-based learning in mechanics, and design projects to help promote adapted physical activities. Other professional interests include aviation physiology and biomechanics.

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Michael J. Prince Bucknell University

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Development and Assessment of an Inquiry-Based Learning Activity in Dynamics: A Case Study in Identifying Sources and Repairing Student MisconceptionsAbstractA fundamental question in teaching engineering Dynamics is how to develop pedagogy to repairdeeply ingrained student misconceptions about the physical world. This paper documents thedevelopment and assessment of an Inquiry-Based Learning Activity (IBLA) used to repairstudent misconceptions in an introductory Dynamics course. IBLA’s consist of presenting teamsof students with a physical situation and asking them to predict what will happen. The studentsnext investigate the situation by experimenting with actual hardware that becomes the“authority” thus forcing students to confront their misconceptions. In this study, the authorsdeveloped an IBLA based on a question from the Dynamics Concept Inventory (DCI), avalidated tool to assess conceptual knowledge in Dynamics. The IBLA was deployed in bothintroductory and a second Dynamics course and assessed through pre-post DCI results, in classquizzes, homework problems, written student reflections and final exam questions. Next, usingvideotape and peer prompting, the authors developed and collected a verbal protocol fromDynamics students working both as individuals and in teams as they worked through the activityusing a “talk aloud” approach. Based on coding of the videotaped transcripts a betterunderstanding of the sources of misconceptions was identified and further refinements to theIBLA were made. The revised IBLA was redeployed with a new Dynamics cohort. Assessmentsindicate that use of the revised IBLA results in robust gains in student conceptual understanding.The sections that follow include descriptions of the videotape protocol, the IBLA, a detaileddiscussion of assessment results along with suggestions for implementation.

Widmann, J. M., & Self, B. P., & Prince, M. J. (2014, June), Development and Assessment of an Inquiry-Based Learning Activity in Dynamics: A Case Study in Identifying Sources and Repairing Student Misconceptions Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20298

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