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Exploring Learner Engagement and Achievement in Large Undergraduate Engineering Mechanics Courses

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Statics Online

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.729.1 - 26.729.11



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Paper Authors


Jacob R. Grohs Virginia Tech

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Jacob Grohs is currently a full-time Instructor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech. He holds degrees in Engineering Mechanics (BS, MS) and in Educational Psychology (MAEd, PhD). Starting in Fall 2015, he will be an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech.

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Timothy Kinoshita Virginia Tech


Brian J. Novoselich Virginia Tech

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Brian Novoselich is an active duty Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. His is a former assistant professor at the United States Military Academy. His research interests include capstone design teaching and assessment, undergraduate engineering student leadership development, and social network analysis.

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David B. Knight Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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David Knight is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education and affiliate faculty with the Higher Education Program, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, and Human-Centered Design Program. His research focuses on student learning outcomes in undergraduate engineering, learning analytics approaches to improve educational practices and policies, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, organizational change in colleges and universities, and international issues in higher education.

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Exploring Learner Engagement and Achievement in Large Undergraduate Engineering Mechanics CoursesUndergraduate engineering mechanics courses often represent a significant challenge to aspiringengineers because of the conceptually challenging course content and a misperceived status asfinal “roadblocks” before students enroll in specialized classes of a particular engineeringdiscipline. Further, large class sizes increasingly distance students and faculty from the teachingand learning endeavor – instructional and assessment methods become mechanized (e.g. onlineauto-grading) and, as a result, satisfaction and engagement for all suffer. In effect, thesefundamental mechanics courses become a major barrier for student persistence and success inengineering. Our study seeks to inform and improve these educational environments through abetter understanding of relationships between course engagement (e.g., time on task, methods ofengagement, changes in engagement over time) and achievement in select Statics courses at alarge, research intensive, public university.Though the written learning outcomes of a typical Statics course may be exclusively technical,the timing and nature of the course in the engineering curriculum position it as one that alsorequires students to develop proficiency in self-regulation and metacognition. Successfulstudents must learn to integrate knowledge and skills from several first-year engineering andmathematics courses, effectively manage time and study strategies, and develop an awareness ofwhat concepts may require additional attention. Though student success in any course is afunction of these interdisciplinary skills, because Statics represents such an early pivotal point inan engineering curriculum, student ability to self-regulate learning represents a critical area offurther study. Grounded in that argument, our study explores how often (hours/week) andthrough what methods (e.g., classroom attendance, office hours, independent problem solving,group problem solving) students self-report engaging with course content throughout thesemester. We collected data through a series of online surveys administered during class periodsbefore and after high-stakes achievement tests. We paired survey responses with courseachievement data (homework average, high-stakes tests 1-4, final exam, overall course grade) tolink students’ time spent on different activities to course performance. The initial surveyresponse included 257 participating students out of a total possible 350 students across twosections of Statics. Results show average hours/week engagement times well below theinstitutionally expected 3:1 hours outside of class to hours in class ratio in addition toconnections between particular study strategies and achievement (e.g. those dedicating time tosolving novel problems scored higher than those primarily reviewing past completed problems).With an enhanced understanding of data-enlightened relationships between engagement andachievement, we will share findings with students in the courses to help further cultivate learneragency and help them target specific high impact learning practices. Collecting, sharing, anddiscussing data related to overarching class-wide engagement and performance can help fosterownership and metacognitive awareness in both students and teachers. In so doing, we hope todirectly improve student success and persistence in engineering at our own institution while alsocontributing to scholarly discussions on student engagement and achievement in large classes,particularly in engineering mechanics courses.

Grohs, J. R., & Kinoshita, T., & Novoselich, B. J., & Knight, D. B. (2015, June), Exploring Learner Engagement and Achievement in Large Undergraduate Engineering Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24066

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