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Do They Like What They Learn, Do They Learn What They Like – And What Do We Do About It?

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

FPD5 -- Placement & Early Success

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.560.1 - 12.560.23



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Paper Authors


Beverly Jaeger Northeastern University

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Beverly Jaeger, Sue Freeman, and Rich Whalen are members of Northeastern University’s Gateway Team, a selected group of faculty expressly devoted to the first-year Engineering Program at Northeastern University. The focus of this team is on providing a consistent, comprehensive, and constructive educational experience in engineering that endorses the student-centered and professionally-oriented mission of Northeastern University.

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Susan Freeman Northeastern University

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Richard Whalen Northeastern University

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Do They Like What They Learn, Do They Learn What They Like – and What Do We Do About It?

Abstract Continuous updates to first-year engineering curricula have seen the development and implementation of a variety of new learning strategies as standard educational practices1. Trends involving learning methods such as active learning, case-based learning, service learning, problem-based learning, and other teaching innovations have received positive reviews, in part for their effectiveness and the ability of each to engage college students beyond the traditional lecture format. While novelty, variety, and student engagement have their merits in terms of raising interest levels and perhaps retention, continued judicious and measured application of these diverse educational methods is required to ensure that the learning objectives are being met as well. Furthermore, both professional faculty development and course development necessarily include assessment on many levels; accepting that a learning activity has the potential to teach concepts does not guarantee that it will educate students in the most effective way. Previous research by the authors provided evidence of the effectiveness of incorporating diverse active learning modes2 As a follow up, we have sought to evaluate this variety of learning modes from our students’ perspectives by surveying this population on the learning potential of each mode – or method of presenting material– and on the degree to which each course component or activity is interesting or engaging. Using a rating system, students responded for themselves by providing their ratings on learning and engagement levels for each listed class component. Correlative results showed that the students possessed a relatively distinctive profile in their ‘like-learn’ responses. The paper discusses this outcome and also provides suggestions on how to better calibrate our assessments with the students’ perceptions. We also describe strategies to manage any mismatches that may exist between students and instructors on some of the components. The objective is to identify and combine the most effective blend of learning modes in an introductory engineering design class. Each of the learning modes and activities were described in a previous paper by the authors along with an assessment of related learning2. This work provides examples of evaluating individual course components, identifies characteristics of some of the ostensibly successful learning modes, and proposes solutions to components and modes presently not hitting the mark. The hope is that other educators may identify with these learning- engagement patterns in their own courses and find opportunities to make considered adjustments in the interests of their course content and their population of learners.

Introduction Having passed through multiple evaluations and iterations of our first-year engineering courses at Northeastern University (NU), it was time for more concentrated reflection on the new educational landscape we had created. As educators in general, we have worked to make the classroom more than a “square” by venturing outside its traditional boundaries in order to become more effective and to retain students in our discipline on a genuine level. In making these incremental –and occasionally radical– adjustments in our course formats, it is also essential to continually evaluate the suitability of each of the activities and components of our courses in terms of learning effectiveness and the level of interest and engagement on the part of the students; this is to ensure that the modifications that have been made are worthwhile. We also need to consider that just because we as educators believe the students like a class activity does

Jaeger, B., & Freeman, S., & Whalen, R. (2007, June), Do They Like What They Learn, Do They Learn What They Like – And What Do We Do About It? Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2178

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015