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How To Assess Or How Not To Assess ... That Is The Question

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovative Teaching Techniques

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.703.1 - 10.703.15



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Paper Authors

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Jill Lane

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Sarah Rzasa

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Richard Behr

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Christine Masters

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

How To Assess or How Not to Assess … That is the Question Christine Masters, Sarah Rzasa, Jill Lane, Richard Behr The Pennsylvania State University


Many innovations are taking place in engineering classrooms across the nation. But how do we decide if an innovation is achieving the desired outcomes? Most engineering faculty members are interested, even eager to make improvements in the way engineering concepts are taught in their courses. But many, if not most, have little or no experience in formal educational assessment. Hopefully our experiences in assessing a new innovation incorporated into the large enrollment statics course at Penn State during the Fall of 2004 can offer some help to others. The innovation, called “MechANEX,” is a set of software modules and matched, bench-scale laboratory exercises aimed at seven key statics concepts. The assessment consists of a combination of pre-tests, post-tests, on-line surveys, and phone interviews. Discussed are details of the proposed assessment plan and the logic behind the individual assessment instruments employed. Preliminary results are also provided.


In the fall of 2004, an innovation was incorporated into an existing introductory statics course at Penn State (EMCH 011). The innovation consisted of a set of software and laboratory exercises involving key concepts related to the course. Because this innovation had not yet been utilized in the classroom in its completed form, a comprehensive plan to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of the innovation was appropriate.

Frequently, the purpose of educational assessment is to provide feedback to an instructor about what is working in the classroom so that changes can be made in order to improve student learning. In addition, administrators, as well as other faculty, could be keenly interested in assessment results to determine if the innovation should be continued in the course. Ultimately, the purpose of assessment is to determine whether or not the intended goals of the innovation have been met. Therefore, the planning stage for the assessing any innovation must first begin with the goals and objectives of the innovation. Once these goals and objectives are clearly identified, preferred means of gathering information related to these goals and objectives can be determined.

The purposes of this paper are to provide a description of one such assessment plan for an engineering educational innovation, and to assist others who might want to assess similar course level innovations. Details of the MechANEX project are first described to provide context followed by a discussion of the assessment plan used during the fall 2004 semester. The challenges encountered during this particular project are also summarized. Finally, preliminary results of the assessment project are provided and discussed.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Lane, J., & Rzasa, S., & Behr, R., & Masters, C. (2005, June), How To Assess Or How Not To Assess ... That Is The Question Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15581

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