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Improving Retention of Student Understanding by Use of Hands-on Experiments in Statics

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Teaching Statics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.718.1 - 24.718.28



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Paper Authors


Carisa H Ramming P.E. Oklahoma State University

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Carisa Ramming joined the faculty at Oklahoma State University as an assistant professor in January 2009 after a stint as a visiting professor in the School of Architecture during the 2007-2008 academic year. Professor Ramming is a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Architectural Engineering degree in 2001 and dual masters degrees; Master of Science in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Construction Engineering and Master of Architectural Engineering in 2004.
Before returning to academia, Professor Ramming worked as a consulting engineer for Wallace Engineering in Tulsa, OK, primarily designing large structural steel retail facilities and obtained her license as a professional engineer in the state of Oklahoma.
Professor Ramming is a member of the American Society of Engineering Educators and the Oklahoma Structural Engineers Association. She has served the engineering community previously as Director, Vice-President, and President of OSEA. Currently, Professor Ramming is the National Delegate for the state of Oklahoma to the National Council of Structural Engineering Associations and Oklahoma Eastern Chapter Young Member Group. Professor Ramming is the advisor for OSU’s student chapter of the Architectural Engineering Institute.
Professor Ramming recently co-authored Civil Engineering & Architecture: Workbook for Project Lead the Way which provides curriculum for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education used in middle and high schools. She was also named the Outstanding Faculty Member from the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology by the The Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council in 2010 and 2012 and awarded the Halliburton Young Teaching Award in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology in 2013.

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John J. Phillips P.E. Oklahoma State University

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John Phillips, a registered engineer and associate professor of architectural engineering, practiced as a structural engineer for nine years before returning to his alma mater to teach in the School of Architecture at Oklahoma State University. He teaches both at the undergraduate and graduate level in Engineering Statics, Analysis I, Foundations, Timbers, Steel, Concrete, Steel II, Concrete II, Steel III, and Concrete III. Additionally, he is one of five professors teaching in the Comprehensive Design Studio, which takes Architectural and Architectural Engineering students through all phases of the design process on a commercial building of their own design.

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Improving retention of student understanding by use of hands-on experiments in StaticsWhen a course in the Engineering Science of Statics is taught to a large number ofstudents, how can the the multiple topics covered in the class be presented in a manner toincrease the student’s understanding of the material? Statics is one of the foundationcourses for an engineering student's education, and the topics learned in this course mustbe retained for use in follow-on courses in engineering. For a class with more than 300students per semester, the problem becomes even more difficult as overhead projectionsare often the only way of presenting to a class of this size. Theory sessions of the courseare not able to present material to small groups, a manner in which students might bemore likely to retain what has been presented. However, during the course discussionlabs, where the number of students does not exceed 24 per instructor, students should beable to have more of a personal relationship with the instructor, and thus potentiallybetter understand and retain material. Within our college, continued low test scores alongwith an unfavorable percentage of students retaking this course have led to searching forways of formatting the course in a manner to allow students to better retain material. Asa result, the professors involved in this course have been tasked with improving student’sability to retain knowledge, which is measured through test scores, as well as decreasingthe percentage of students required to re-take the course due to non-passing grades.Additionally, it is agreed upon that if the students better understand the beginningengineering courses, the retention of students within the college can be improved, whichis always a topic of concern in higher education.One method that is being explored to improve student’s understanding in this course isthe use of hands-on activities in the discussion labs that reinforce concepts presented inthe theory sessions. By utilizing these activities, students should be able to draw on theexperiences to retain knowledge gained on individual topics. This paper will exploremethods currently being utilized in a large format course in Statics, and in particular, howthe use of hands-on experiments during discussion labs can lead to an increase in studentsunderstanding. Evaluation of the methods used will be based on homework and examquestions pertaining to specific topics in the course. Additionally, a comparative study ofuniversities with similar programs, and a literary search comparing our results with thoseof other researchers will be presented.

Ramming, C. H., & Phillips, J. J. (2014, June), Improving Retention of Student Understanding by Use of Hands-on Experiments in Statics Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20610

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