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Group Homework: A New Faculty Member's Experiences In An Introductory Engineering Course

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.530.1 - 6.530.6



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Paper Authors

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David Miller

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

Session 1475

Group homework: A new faculty member’s experiences in an introductory engineering course D. C. Miller Department of Chemical Engineering Michigan Technological University

Introduction As described recently1, most new engineering educators teach in the manner they were taught. Many recognize that more effective methods of instruction must exist; however, they often become overwhelmed with literature that is written in “a language that is foreign to them” and, lacking the time to decipher the jargon, end up continuing to use the same old teaching methods.1 This paper provides new engineering educators with the rationale and basic knowledge required to begin incorporating cooperative learning (through group homework) into their classes. Cooperative learning is different from merely having students work in groups. Cooperative learning occurs when students interactively work together, and they are accountable both to do his/her share of the work and to understand everyone else’s contribution.2

Rationale The decision to incorporate cooperative learning through group homework exercises was based on (1) evidence that indicates cooperative learning is more effective than traditional teaching techniques, (2) the importance of teamwork skills in industry, and (3) specific aspects of the course, including the difficulty of the course material, which requires a different approach to problem solving than that typically used by the students up to now.

Students taught cooperatively tend “to have better and longer information retention, higher grades, more highly developed critical thinking and problem-solving skills, more positive attitudes toward the subject and greater motivation to learn it, better interpersonal and communication skills, higher self-esteem, [and] lower levels of anxiety about academics.”2 An extensive analysis3 has shown that the effect on student achievement would “move a student from the 50th percentile to the 70th on a standardized test” and the “effect on students’ persistence is enough to reduce attrition…by 22%”. However, poorly structured small-group instruction can also be significantly less effective than traditional lecturing.4,5 Many theories been promoted to explain why cooperative learning is effective, including the ideas that (1) “it allows students to cognitively rehearse and relate course material into existing schema or conceptual frameworks, thus producing a deeper, contextualized level of understanding of content”.5 By placing the students in a situation where they must communicate their problem-solving approaches to one another, they gain a better understanding of how they achieve the answer and they learn from one another. Ideally the structure of the cooperative learning exercise will help students to develop

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Miller, D. (2001, June), Group Homework: A New Faculty Member's Experiences In An Introductory Engineering Course Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9316

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