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Examining and Influencing How Students Prepare for Engineering Classes

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Learning and Assessment II

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.595.1 - 25.595.14



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Paper Authors


John W. Evangelista P.E. U.S. Military Academy

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John Evangelista is an instructor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Evangelista assumed his current position on June 15, 2010, where he currently teaches heat transfer and mechanical engineering design. He also advises senior cadets in the Mechanical Engineering Capstone Design course and independent study. Evangelista was born in Geneva, N.Y., graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers in 2001. He has held numerous positions of responsibility in the Army to include combat experience as a platoon leader. Evangelista holds a bachelor's of science in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a master's of science in engineering management from the Missouri Institute of Science and Technology. He recently graduated from Cornell University with a second master's of science degree in mechanical engineering. The title of his thesis was “An Experimental Demonstration of Converting Organic Liquids and their Aqueous Mixtures in a Film Boiling Reactor.”

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Examining and Influencing How Students Prepare for Engineering Classes A common stigma that students often associate with an engineering degree is enduring anexcessive workload. In fact, recent studies suggest that this perception is one of the primary reasonsmany students leave engineering majors and pursue other studies. This claim is also confirmed almostuniformly across all core engineering courses when students report on end of course surveys that they donot have enough time in their schedule to complete their assignments. As an educator, however, theseclaims are viewed from an admittedly critical perspective, especially after witnessing first-hand,frustratingly at times, poor study habits, weak time management skills and unacceptable daily preparationlevels for class. In fact, this contradiction is highlighted further by a unique departmental policy requiringstudents to anonymously report how much time they spend preparing for each lesson. Each year, studentsreport that they are actually spending on average just half the amount of time per lesson that is bothexpected and also used to design course requirements. So is it really fair, or even accurate, to labelengineering with an “excessive workload” compared to other disciplines? As an educator, the potentialto positively influence this apparent contradictory stigma and obvious source of frustration for bothstudent and teacher forms the primary motivation of this study. This work examines how engineering students actually spend their time preparing for class andhow we as teachers can positively influence it. The first objective investigates the true nature of studentpreparation. We explore if students actually complete or at least review assigned readings and whatencourages them to do so. We evaluate how graded events drive student preparation and how much timeis truly being spent preparing for class. The second objective evaluates certain teaching methods thatreportedly enhance student preparation and learning. As a pilot study, our primary method requiresstudents in a previously open-book-exam heat transfer course to rely solely on their own daily summarynotes for all graded events. Students submit a summary outline from the reading on the front of a 5x8card for each lesson. Only sheets demonstrating completion of the assigned reading are approved andgiven back to students where additional notes can be written within the remaining space of the card. Mostimportantly, this document serves as the student’s only reference on examinations. Initial results showthis method is administratively simple to implement and class preparation time, along with completionrates of assigned readings, are noticeably higher compared to other core engineering courses. We feel thisstudy will be of interest to educators in any technical field looking for a simple, “self-motivating” tool toenhance student preparation and learning.

Evangelista, J. W. (2012, June), Examining and Influencing How Students Prepare for Engineering Classes Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21352

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