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Dynamics Buzzword Bingo: Active/Collaborative/Inductive Learning, Model Eliciting Activities, And Conceptual Understanding

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Teaching Dynamics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.432.1 - 15.432.8



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Paper Authors


Brian Self California Polytechnic State University

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Brian Self is a Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Prior to joining the faculty at Cal Poly in 2006, he taught for seven years at the United States Air Force Academy and worked for four years in the Air Force Research Laboratories. Research interests include active learning and engineering education, spatial disorientation, rehabilitation engineering, sports biomechanics, and aerospace physiology. He worked on a team that developed the Dynamics Concept Inventory and is currently collaborating on a grant to develop and assess Model Eliciting Activities in engineering. Brian is the 2008-2010 ASEE Zone IV Chair and serves as Cal Poly’s ASEE Campus Representative.

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James 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 design optimization, machine design, fluid power control and engineering education.

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

Dynamics Buzzword Bingo: Active/Collaborative/Inductive Learning, Model Eliciting Activities, Conceptual Understanding


At most schools, dynamics does not have a pearly reputation among students; introductory dynamics has one of the highest failure rates of any course at our university. It is usually the first really difficult engineering course that students must take, and many of the concepts are not intuitive. To try to combat this, two instructors have tried to change their instructional techniques to more closely match current trends in engineering education. As in many universities, classroom time is largely spent having students work problems in groups, encouraging both active and collaborative learning. Before each class, one or two example problems are posted in order to help those students who insist that they learn best by “watching the instructor work problems on the board.” At least one of these includes audio, where the instructor discusses the steps and thought processes while solving the problem. We have also used two to three Model-Eliciting Activities (MEAs) during each quarter, which provides context to specific dynamics principles. Students apply particle work-energy and momentum principles by creating an accident reconstruction manual for a police department in Sri Lanka, and practice their rigid body work-energy, kinetics, and angular momentum principles by analyzing a catapult for a medieval exhibit at a British Museum. These projects are introduced before the material is covered, serving as a form of inductive learning and hopefully motivating the material. Finally, we have included conceptual questions during each class period to help the students think more deeply about the material (rather than just plugging numbers into equations). Assessment will be presented using three metrics: final exam averages, scores on the Dynamics Concept Inventory, and student attitudinal surveys.


Landmark publications such as How People Learn and Educating the Engineer of 2020 (along with numerous other publications) have suggested that we need to change the traditional way of educating engineering students. As most of you know, the traditional lecture-based way of teaching does not match the way that most people learn. Students have an attention span of 10- 15 minutes before starting to lose interest, and do not have long-term retention of the material. Educators have now begun to stress using techniques such as active, collaborative, and inductive learning (Prince, 2004; Hake, 1998), and many stress the importance of conceptual knowledge versus simple algorithmic substitution.

At Cal Poly, we have attempted to combine all of these in a sophomore level dynamics class. Our course is a three hour per week lecture class, with approximately thirty 50-minute classes per quarter. Like at many universities, this course has one of the highest failure rates of any class. It is typically taught in a very traditional manner, with instructors lecturing on the material and then working out example problems for the students. In 10 different sections over three

Self, B., & Widmann, J. (2010, June), Dynamics Buzzword Bingo: Active/Collaborative/Inductive Learning, Model Eliciting Activities, And Conceptual Understanding Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16484

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