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Does Class Size Matter? Reflections On Teaching Engineering Economy To Small And Large Classes

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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

Engineering Economy -- The Introductory Course

Tagged Division

Engineering Economy

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.449.1 - 13.449.8



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Paper Authors


Joseph Hartman University of Florida

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Joseph Hartman received his PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1996. He has served as Director of the Engineering Economy Division of ASEE and is currently Editor of The Engineering Economist.

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

Does Class Size Matter? Reflections on Teaching Engineering Economy to Small and Large Classes


Having recently transitioned from a small, private university to a large, public university, I was immediately faced with 172 students in my engineering economy course. The course is required by nearly all engineering majors, with variants taught in industrial, chemical, civil, and environmental engineering departments. The student count was in stark contrast to my previous average of 48 students per year, varying from 12 to 73 students. While many control variables were held constant (same lecturer, same textbook, same assignments), some varied (different student population, different lecture schedule, different number and length of exams). We report on differences in the courses, including the quantitative performance of students and qualitative differences in delivery as observed by the instructor.


As noted by Felder3, Dr. Phillip Wankat, a noted writer of teaching in engineering, said “that anything you can do in a large class you can do better in a small one.” Having experienced both sides of this situation, I would have to agree.

In my first semester at a large, public institution, I taught engineering economy. This course is required by all engineering majors and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering teaches a version taken routinely by industrial, mechanical, electrical, computer, and computer science engineers. The class was populated with 172 engineers, split evenly between juniors and seniors. Having recently moved from a small private university with enrollments generally near 40 per class, this was quite a shock!

Teaching large classes is not new, but it was to me. As a graduate student, also at a large public institution, I had the pleasure of teaching engineering economy to roughly 70 industrial and systems engineering majors numerous times. This number seemed to pale in comparison to my assigned 172 for the Fall of 2007 semester.

As a researcher, I sought the literature to help in this endeavor. There are a number of resources available at various institutions to help deal with large classes. For example, a simple search on the Web located resources at a number of universities, often through a Center for Teaching. One example of this is Ives2, which includes practical steps on dealing with large classes, including educator testimonials. The educational research literature also provides this type of information, as in Felder3. Lewis9 provides a detailed bibliography of the literature on teaching large classes.

In this paper, I highlight the “tips” that I found most useful and how they were implemented. Many of these are general in nature. I also highlight which concerns noted in the literature that did not seem to be relevant in my case. This discussion is followed by situations I believed to be specifically germane to engineering economy.

Hartman, J. (2008, June), Does Class Size Matter? Reflections On Teaching Engineering Economy To Small And Large Classes Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3207

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