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First Year Experiences Implementing Minimum Self Paced Mastery In A Freshman Engineering Problem Solving Course

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.287.1 - 3.287.12

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Paper Authors

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Stephen M. Williams

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Byron P. Newberry

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

Session 2553

First-Year Experiences Implementing Minimum Self-Paced Mastery in a Freshman Engineering Problem-Solving Course

Stephen M. Williams, Byron P. Newberry Baylor University


The objective of this paper is to introduce the reader to our experiences in teaching a freshman engineering problem-solving course using a modified form of mastery learning. A challenge in teaching engineering analysis to freshman students regards the relatively wide variance in their maturity and problem-solving skills. We decided to accommodate for this variance while ensuring a minimum level of competency at the completion of the course by implementing minimum self-paced mastery.

Two nontraditional concepts are utilized in this course: self-pacing and mastery. Self- pacing in its purest form allows students to complete their learning of the units of material at any time during the course. Minimum self-pacing requires that students complete their learning of the unit material within a specified window of time. Mastery requires that students demonstrate a minimum level of competency on a unit of material before moving ahead to subsequent units.

Various aspects of the course are covered. A description of course content and a detailed description of the minimum self-paced mastery technique are presented. Also presented are the impacts of this technique on student utilization of office hours, student utilization of collaborative study groups, student performance on exams, and student retention beyond this course.


For the past five years, the Department of Engineering at Baylor University has taught a course, EGR 1302 - Introduction to Engineering Fundamentals, to be taken nominally in the spring semester of the freshman year, and required of all engineering majors. The objective of this course is to develop and improve student analytical problem solving skills and therefore promote increased student retention through the sophomore course sequence of Statics, Dynamics, and Electric Circuit Theory. The course catalog description is as follows.

“Introduction to fundamental problem-solving techniques in engineering analysis of mechanical, electrical, computer and energy systems.”

The course content, which has varied slightly depending on instructor(s), currently consists of three main topics: an introduction to statics, an introduction to electric circuit analysis, and development of the mathematical techniques associated with each. In the statics half of the course, the emphasis is on vector mathematics, units, force/moment definitions and

Williams, S. M., & Newberry, B. P. (1998, June), First Year Experiences Implementing Minimum Self Paced Mastery In A Freshman Engineering Problem Solving Course Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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