Asee peer logo

Impact of Prior Experiences on Future Participation in Active Learning

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Maker Communities and Authentic Problem Solving

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Robert Matthew DeMonbrun University of Michigan

visit author page

Matt DeMonbrun is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE) in the School of Education at the University of Michigan. His research interests include college student development theory, intergroup interactions, and teaching and learning practices and how they relate to student learning outcomes in engineering education.

visit author page


Cynthia J. Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Cynthia Finelli is Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Associate Professor of Education, and Director and Graduate Chair for Engineering Education Research Programs at University of Michigan (U-M). Dr. Finelli is a fellow in the American Society of Engineering Education, a Deputy Editor of the Journal for Engineering Education, an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education, and past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of ASEE. She founded the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering at U-M in 2003 and served as its Director for 12 years. Prior to joining U-M, Dr. Finelli was the Richard L. Terrell Professor of Excellence in Teaching, founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and associate professor of electrical engineering at Kettering University.

Dr. Finelli's current research interests include student resistance to active learning, faculty adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, the use of technology and innovative pedagogies on student learning and success, and the impact of a flexible classroom space on faculty teaching and student learning. She also led a project to develop a taxonomy for the field of engineering education research, and she was part of a team that studied ethical decision-making in engineering students.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This research paper examines students’ responses to specific types of evidence-based instructional practices (EBIP) in the engineering classroom. Researchers have long emphasized the need to improve the quality of undergraduate teaching through the use of EBIP, particularly for engineering fields. Despite research supporting the benefits of EBIP in engineering, the translation from research into practice (i.e., incorporating innovative teaching practices in the classroom) has been slow. Research on faculty decisions about their teaching practices has identified a number of barriers to the adoption of these practices, including student resistance to active learning. Concerns about student resistance, whether evidenced through formal course evaluations or expressed by students in other ways, could have a detrimental effect on instructors’ willingness to adopt EBIP. Consequently, understanding how students respond to new types of instruction and identifying ways to reduce student resistance are essential for lowering a key barrier to adoption of EBIP. One under-researched factor that may influence student resistance to EBIP is students’ prior experiences with different types of instruction. This study examines students’ responses to specific types of EBIP – including those types used most often in engineering courses – and investigates whether or not prior experiences affect the relationship between these students’ responses and the type of instruction.

The sample of courses analyzed in this study includes five gateway engineering courses at a large, public research institution in the Midwest. These courses were selected from five engineering disciplines: electrical engineering, computer science engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and biomedical engineering. All students enrolled in one of these five courses were invited to complete two surveys: Survey 1 was administered four weeks into the semester, and Survey 2 was administered one week before final examinations. A total of 242 students completed both surveys. The survey is based on an instrument our research team has developed, validated, and used in several previous studies.

Results suggest that student participation in EBIP is context dependent, and it varies by the type of instruction used in the classroom. For example, students reported seldom finding value in discussing concepts with classmates during class, which leads to lower levels of participation in these types of activities, whereas they often found value in non-group-related activities (e.g., brainstorming different possible solutions to a given problem or answering questions posted by the instructor) or lecture-based instruction. These responses vary as characteristics of the activity differ (e.g., individual or group-based, affecting course grade or not). Furthermore, students’ prior experiences were a significant predictor of student participation in specific types of instruction (e.g., group activities). For example, if students had a positive prior experience with group work, they were more likely to approach a subsequent group activity with a positive outlook and willingness to participate in the activity, and vice-versa. The full research paper will expand upon these results as well as discuss additional findings from the broader research study.

DeMonbrun, R. M., & Finelli, C. J. (2018, June), Impact of Prior Experiences on Future Participation in Active Learning Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30604

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015