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GIFTS: Teaching with Top Hat: Increasing engagement and propagating a growth mindset for learning.

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2021 First-Year Engineering Experience



Publication Date

August 9, 2021

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August 9, 2021

End Date

August 21, 2021

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Alandra Kahl Pennsylvania State University, Greater Allegheny

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Dr. Alandra Kahl currently teaches engineering design and sustainable systems at The Pennsylvania State University, Greater Allegheny campus. She received her doctorate in environmental engineering from the University of Arizona, where her dissertation focused on the fate and transport of contaminants of emerging concern in an arid region. Dr. Kahl’s research interests include engineering of sustainable systems, treatment of emerging contaminants via natural systems and engineering education. She is the author of several technical papers and conference proceedings centered on environmental engineering. Her professional affiliations include the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Chemical Society, and the American Society for Engineering Education.

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In engineering, students with a growth mindset are better equipped to handle challenges and solve difficult problems as they believe that mistakes are an opportunity for change and improvement, while students with a fixed mindset believe mistakes are tied to a lack of ability and don’t believe their hard work will translate to success. Engagement with course materials is an important element for encouraging a growth mindset in engineering. There are many new tools to connect students with learning materials, both online and in the classroom. In 2021, Penn State adopted the tool Top Hat for instructors to incorporate into their instructional course designs. Top Hat is a partner tool that integrates with the university learning management system and includes access to polling, digital textbooks, and attendance. Instructors using Top Hat can directly connect these resources to their course shell for students to access and utilize, free of charge with their Penn State institutional account. Instant feedback from lecture polls and discussion questions presented in class provide instructors with an instant temperature reading of the success of their students. Results can be presented as bar graphs or right/wrong percentages anonymized percentages that allow students and instructors to gauge the success of the class with that particular topic or question. Instructors also receive a weekly breakdown of questions and answers that help highlight struggling students or class difficulty with a particular topic presented that week. By allowing students to see their results in relation to the class as well as highlighting struggling students, Top Hat can help increase engagement and growth mindsets within a course as well as encouraging struggling students or those with fixed mindsets by presenting them with direct in class feedback to build their confidence. This session will highlight the features of Top Hat as well as present data from a Spring 2021 course taught using the Top Hat tool, including student feedback about Top Hat.

Kahl, A. (2021, August), GIFTS: Teaching with Top Hat: Increasing engagement and propagating a growth mindset for learning. Paper presented at 2021 First-Year Engineering Experience, Virtual .

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