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Disruption in Large Classes during Active Learning Sessions

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Teaching Methods in Mechancial Engineering

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Kimberly Bernadine Catton Colorado State University

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Professor of Practice
Mechanical Engineering

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Abril Galang Colorado State University

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Alexander T Bulk Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University

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Large class sizes are increasingly common in mechanical engineering undergraduate courses due to increased enrollments of undergraduate students with a disproportional investment to faculty numbers. Simultaneously, active learning is promoted to faculty members over traditional lectures due to published findings of improved student learning. Active learning typically involves a break in the lecture to allow for problem solving, discussion, or other activities. Based on classroom experience, the use of active learning in large classes, particularly in the first year, can lead to a disruptive learning environment. In this preliminary study, a 1st year course and a 4th year course (n=120 and 135, respectively) were surveyed in Fall of 2015 to quantify student’s ratings of active learning and disruption. The student’s impressions of active learning (e.g., interactive clicker problem solving) were assessed using a survey at the end of the course. Students were overwhelmingly positive about the advantages of active learning (>80% responded favorably) in the both courses. However, the students in the 1st year course had less positive feedback on active learning and higher ratings of disruption in the classroom than the students in the 4th year course (34% rated as disruptive in 1st year, 14% rated disruptive in the 4th year). This preliminary study suggests that using classroom response systems (clickers) in the 1st year curriculum with large class sizes may lead students to feel that the class was disruptive and that active learning was not as positive of an experience as active learning environments later in the curriculum.

Catton, K. B., & Galang, A., & Bulk, A. T. (2016, June), Disruption in Large Classes during Active Learning Sessions Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26856

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