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Direct Assessment Of Student Learning Outcomes In Physics For Engineers Courses

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Programmatic Issues in Physics or Engineering Physics Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.438.1 - 13.438.7



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Paper Authors


Anca Sala Baker College

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ANCA L. SALA, Assistant Professor, is Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Baker College. Dr. Sala coordinates several engineering and technology programs, is actively involved in teaching and developing engineering curriculum, and leads the ABET accreditation activities in the department. She is a member of ASEE, ASME, and OSA.

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Raghu Echempati Kettering University

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RAGHU ECHEMPATI is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University (formerly GMI Engineering & Management Institute). He has over 20 years of teaching, research and consulting experience. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of Mechanics, Machine Design, and CAE (including metal forming simulations and Design of Machines and Mechanisms). He is very active in the Study Abroad Programs at Kettering University. He is a member of ASME, ASEE, and SAE, and a Fellow of the ASME.

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

Direct Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes in Physics for Engineers Courses


The calculus-based Introductory Physics sequence of courses for undergraduate engineering students is considered part of the general education requirement by most colleges and universities. However, as implied by the a)-k) general ABET program outcomes, and the l)-n) outcomes specific to Mechanical Engineering programs, a solid preparation in Physics is required in order for students to be successful in the further study of engineering disciplines, and ultimately become accomplished engineers. Thus a good direct assessment of student achievement in physics is as important as the direct assessment in the core engineering disciplines. With this in mind we decided to use recent methodologies applied for direct assessment of engineering courses to develop a direct assessment for calculus-based physics taught to undergraduate mechanical engineering students.

The paper describes our methodology for assessing student achievement in one of the Physics courses in the calculus-based Physics sequence, and the results we obtained for the past two academic years. Achievement of each Student Learning Outcome was determined quantitatively using a spreadsheet program. A special focus was placed on Student Learning Outcomes directly related to the a)-n) ABET required program outcomes for Mechanical Engineering programs. We found the methodology to be very helpful in assessing topics of difficulty for students, and year- to-year trends in student learning.

1. Introduction

Direct assessment of student learning outcomes1 is a practice now embraced by a majority of colleges and universities with ABET accredited engineering programs. The way direct assessment methods are applied has been the subject of numerous journal and conference papers2,3. The present paper focuses on the ABET accredited Mechanical Engineering program offered at first author’s institution, specifically on direct assessment of the General Physics III course. As such the paper brings into attention the Physics sequence of courses which is generally overlooked from the portfolio of engineering courses directly assessed by engineering departments, even though the knowledge acquired by students in these courses is a pre-requisite for many engineering disciplines.

The academic schedule at the first author’s institution is based on three 10-week quarters: Fall, Winter, and Spring. Physics is studied in a year-long sequence of courses, taken by engineering students in their Sophomore year. Each calculus-based General Physics course is a 4-credit, 5- contact hours course, out of which 3 hours per week are dedicated to lecture, and 2 hours per week are dedicated to laboratory experiments. General Physics I is offered in Fall and covers Mechanics, General Physics II is offered in Winter and covers Electricity and Magnetism, and General Physics III is offered in Spring and covers Oscillations, Waves, Thermodynamics, Optics, and Modern Physics.

Sala, A., & Echempati, R. (2008, June), Direct Assessment Of Student Learning Outcomes In Physics For Engineers Courses Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3575

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