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Erasing a Gender Gap in Performance in a Multidisciplinary Introductory Engineering Course

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Conference

2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference

Location

Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 29, 2018

Start Date

April 29, 2018

End Date

May 2, 2018

Conference Session

Gender Track - Technical Session VI

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Gender

Page Count

12

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/29534

Download Count

63

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Paper Authors

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Nancy K. Lape Harvey Mudd College

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Nancy K. Lape is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Harvey Mudd College. Her previous research in engineering education examined the effectiveness of flipped classrooms as compared to more "traditional" active learning in a controlled study. In addition to educational research, she also runs undergraduate research programs in gas separation membranes and transdermal drug delivery.

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Christopher Clark Harvey Mudd College

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Dr. Christopher Clark is a Professor at Harvey Mudd College where his research includes multi robot systems and underwater robotics.

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Lori Bassman Harvey Mudd College

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Matthew Spencer Harvey Mudd College

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Matthew Spencer is an assistant professor at Harvey Mudd College. His research interests include integrating mechanical, chemical and quantum devices into circuits and communication links in harsh environments. He has also worked on experiential and hands-on learning.

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Angela Lee

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R. Erik Spjut Harvey Mudd College

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Prof. Spjut is the Union Oil Company Design Fellow and Professor of Engineering in the Department of Engineering at Harvey Mudd College. He has served a Director of the Engineering Clinic at Harvey Mudd and has been a Visiting Professor at Olin College Of Engineering, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and the California Institute Of Technology. He was also the John Chipman Assistant Professor of Chemical Process Metallurgy in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. Prof. Spjut has taught most of the required engineering courses and has been involved in innovative pedagogy at Harvey Mudd.

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Albert M. Dato Harvey Mudd College

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Laura Palucki Blake Harvey Mudd College

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Laura Palucki Blake is the Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness at Harvey Mudd College, where her primary role is to coordinate data collection, interpretation and dissemination to support teaching and learning, planning and decision-making across the college.

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TJ Tsai Harvey Mudd College

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TJ Tsai completed his BS and MS in electrical engineering at Stanford University in 2006 and 2007. From 2008 to 2010, he worked at SoundHound, a startup that allows users to search for music by singing, humming, or playing a recorded track. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California Berkeley in May 2016, and is now an assistant professor of engineering at Harvey Mudd College.

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Abstract

This paper will discuss the transition from a lecture-based multidisciplinary introductory engineering course to a revised version that integrates theory and hands-on practice around a theme of underwater robotics, including discussion of the design, implementation, and evaluation of the revised course. The course is required for all students (including non-engineering majors) at a small liberal arts college and is the first engineering course for the majority of enrollees. Final grades in the original lecture-based course showed a gender disparity in which male students outperformed female students that had persisted over the course of many offerings. By employing best practices in engineering education, with a special focus on inclusive teaching practices, the course was revised to a model that includes active learning (flipped classroom) tutorials and hands-on practicums. Students attend two tutorial sessions and one hands-on practicum session each week. Before the first tutorial session each week, students watch videos created by the instructors. Students take individual and team quizzes (following the procedure used in Team-Based Learning), which provide accountability for learning the course material. With the remaining time in the first tutorial of the week and the entirety of the second tutorial of the week, students work in small groups with significant student-instructor interaction on context-rich problems focused on real-world engineering applications. The students then take part in a 2.5-hour practicum session where they interacted with physical manifestations of the course content, largely focused around an underwater robot. For example, in one practicum the students placed their robot in a water tank with a buoyancy “spring” attached, then introduced a step input in motor force and measured the robot’s step response; they then used the output data to find the robot’s damping ratio and natural frequency.

Mastery of course content was measured in both the original lecture-based course and the revised course via a pre/post content test; other evaluation measures included a pre/post attitudinal survey regarding the usefulness of class content, intent to major in engineering, and understanding of the engineering profession and student evaluations of teaching. The results show a significant increase in learning and affective gains for all students. Furthermore, the gender disparity in final course grades has disappeared in the revised course and there is no difference between the performance of male and female students on the pre/post content test.

Lape, N. K., & Clark, C., & Bassman, L., & Spencer, M., & Lee, A., & Spjut, R. E., & Dato, A. M., & Palucki Blake, L., & Tsai, T. (2018, April), Erasing a Gender Gap in Performance in a Multidisciplinary Introductory Engineering Course Paper presented at 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, Crystal City, Virginia. https://peer.asee.org/29534

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: © 2018 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