Asee peer logo

Improving Retention In A Thermodynamics Curriculum

Download Paper |


2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Mechanical ET Design & Capstone

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.704.1 - 9.704.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Maurice Bluestein

author page

Pete Hylton

Download Paper |

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

Session 3649

Improving Retention in a Thermodynamics Curriculum Maurice Bluestein and Pete Hylton Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis


Much attention is now being paid to assessment of learning in engineering technology. Current techniques usually focus on the individual course to see if desired outcomes have been met. These methods typically ignore the question of whether the student has retained the information and can recall it at a later date. The establishment of a prerequisite for a given course assumes retention based on the student’s grade in the prerequisite course. To test the validity of this assumption, the faculty of the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department (MET) at Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI), instituted, in the fall of 1999, a review test for students beginning a Thermodynamics II course. The test was made up of six questions on basic differential and integral calculus and four questions on basic thermodynamics. These represented the course’s two prerequisites and all questions were multiple choice. The average scores for the students over an eight semester period were 46.6% for the mathematics and 38.3% for the thermodynamics, with a 43.3% overall. Clearly, retention has been limited. In the fall of 2001 the MET Department instituted a comprehensive examination, also multiple choice, in its senior capstone design course covering twelve core subjects, including thermodynamics. While the results of this test have also shown limited retention (the average overall score is 47%), the students did much better on the four thermodynamics questions repeated from the test in Thermodynamics II (67% average). The marked improvement suggests retention can be enhanced by retesting subject material through the student’s course of study for the BS degree.

I. Introduction

The Mechanical Engineering Technology program at IUPUI has, since its initial eligibility, been accredited by the TAC/ABET accreditation agency. This body requires the MET program to maintain outcome-based assessment processes for all of its courses1. Such processes have normally been developed within a particular course, with little emphasis on linkage to a course from its prerequisite. In other words, how much knowledge was retained in the prerequisite which the student passed that could be applied to the next course in a sequence. In 1999, this department initiated a test for prerequisite knowledge in its second thermodynamics course, MET 320, Applied Thermodynamics. Such an extension of assessment techniques has been shown to be an effective device for establishing the appropriate level at which instruction should begin in the follow-on course2.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Bluestein, M., & Hylton, P. (2004, June), Improving Retention In A Thermodynamics Curriculum Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13649

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: © 2004 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