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Fluids Friday! A Method for Improving Student Attentiveness and Learning in the Classroom

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Classroom Practice II: Technology - and Game-Based Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Matthew Rhudy Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus Orcid 16x16


Rungun Nathan Pennsylvania State University, Berks Campus Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Rungun Nathan is an associate professor and program coordinator for the mechanical engineering in the division of engineering at Penn State Berks. He got his BS from University of Mysore, DIISc from Indian Institute of Science, MS from Louisiana State University and PhD from Drexel University. He has worked in the area of Electronic Packaging in C-DOT (India) and then as a Scientific Assistant in the Robotics laboratory at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. He worked as a post-doc at University of Pennsylvania in the area of Haptics and Virtual Reality. His research interests are in the areas of unmanned vehicles particularly flapping flight, mechatronics, robotics, MEMS, virtual reality and haptics, and teaching with technology. He has ongoing research in flapping flight, Frisbee flight dynamics, lift in porous material and brain injury He is an active member of ASEE and ASME and reviewer for several ASME, IEEE and ASEE, FIE conferences and journals.

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This evidence-based practice paper considers an educational project design to improve student attentiveness in the classroom. One of the major challenges facing undergraduates is time management [1]. This struggle with time management sometimes causes students to decide to sacrifice sleep in order to get more time into their day. Sleep hygiene is particularly important for students because alertness is connected to learning [2]. Additionally, students experiencing a lack of sleep are particularly susceptible to poor learning in passive learning environments [3]. While addressing this issue is important [4], rather than simply encourage students to get more sleep, a different approach was considered which focused on increasing student attentiveness in the classroom regardless of their personal sleep habits. Students are more likely to pay attention if they are interested and energized by the class content. This work is also motivated by the idea that students are more likely to open up and listen if the barriers between teacher and student are reduced [5]. This creates a more welcoming classroom environment which can facilitate student participation [6].

This project introduces a pedagogical technique designed to help improve student attentiveness and energy in a lecture class. This idea was motivated by early morning classes in which students are tired and have difficulty paying attention and remaining focused. This activity was called “Fluids Friday!” and involved the presentation of a “Fluid of the Week” at the start of every Friday class period with pictures, videos, and humor tied into the course material. This helped to capture students’ attention, woke them up, and got their interest and energy flowing early in the period. Following this activity, the remaining class period was treated normally, but benefited from the energetic jump start earlier in the period.

In order to assess the effectiveness of this idea, a survey was given mid-semester to gather student feedback. This survey used traditional Likert item ratings in order to quantify their response to various prompts, including some control prompts. This survey was administered to two sections of a fluid mechanics course for a total of 41 student survey responses. In an average sense, students agreed or strongly agreed to each of the positive prompts in the survey, thus indicating that this idea was successful in improving student attentiveness, energy, and enthusiasm in the classroom. Students genuinely appreciated the additional effort placed into this work and eagerly anticipated the class periods. This was determined to be an effective technique for fostering a positive and open learning environment between teachers and students.

References [1] Britton, B. K., and Tesser, A., “Effects of Time-Management Practices on College Grades,” Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 83, No. 3, 1991, pp. 405-410. [2] Gregory, J. M., W. J. Carter, and P. S. Gregory, The Student's Handbook for Academic Survival in College, McGraw-Hill, 1997. [3] Gregory, J. M, Xie, X., and Mengel, S. A., “Active and Passive Learning Connections to Sleep Management,” 33rd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Boulder, CO, Nov. 2003. [4] Gregory, J. M, Xie, X., and Mengel, S. A., “Sleep Management: A Frontier for Improved Academic Performance,” Proceedings of the 2003 ASEE Gulf-Southwest Annual Conference, The University of Texas at Arlington, 2003. [5] Brown, G., and Edmunds, S., Doing Pedagogical Research in Engineering, Engineering Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, 2011. [6] Wankat, P. C., and Oreovicz, F. S., Teaching Engineering, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 1993.

Rhudy, M., & Nathan, R. (2016, June), Fluids Friday! A Method for Improving Student Attentiveness and Learning in the Classroom Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26933

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