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Improving Student Retention and Engagement in Statics through Online Formative Assessments and Recitations

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Learning and Assessment III

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.753.1 - 25.753.14



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Paper Authors


Horacio Vasquez University of Texas, Pan American

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Horacio Vasquez is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas, Pan American (UTPA), in Edinburg, Texas. His current research interests are in the areas of control systems, mechatronics, measurements and instrumentation, and engineering education.

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Arturo A. Fuentes University of Texas, Pan American

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Arturo Alejandro Fuentes is an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas Pan American. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from Rice University. Among his research interests are nano-reinforced composites, dynamic response analysis, non-destructive evaluation, and engineering education. Among his teaching responsibilities are Finite Element Method, Mechanical Vibrations, and Introduction to Mechanical Engineering at the undergraduate level, and Structural Dynamics, Advanced Mechanics of Materials, and Finite Element Analysis at the graduate level.

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Robert A. Freeman University of Texas, Pan American

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Improving Student Retention and Engagement in Statics through Online Formative Assessments and Recitations AbstractStatics is one of the first fundamental engineering courses in almost all engineering careers; it isa challenging course that is the prerequisite for several engineering mechanics and designcourses. Therefore, students in Statics need to acquire a strong foundation of long-lastingknowledge and deep understanding of concepts, while mastering adequate techniques andprocedures that are essential to analyze and solve problems in engineering. However, manyengineering programs are facing serious difficulties in promoting student academic success inStatics. In the Department of _________ at the University of __________, it has beendetermined that the average passing rate in Statics during the past ten regular semesters is 60.7%,with about 14.3% dropping the course, and about 25% of students getting D or F grades.Students drop or quit the course due to different circumstances at several stages along thesemester. Some common documented reasons to drop the course are: students’ deficiency inalgebra and trigonometry, poor student study skills and habits, students having to work tosupport themselves and their families, students taking too many courses and having too muchhomework, lack of commitment and discipline, among other reasons. For students that stay inthe course until the end of the semester, there is a strong correlation between exam and coursegrades and the quality time and work they dedicate to complete and submit their homework.Hence, online formative assessments were developed and implemented for student knowledgeretention and integration. Online assessments motivate students to use what they learn in onepart of the course in subsequent topics to reinforce and integrate their knowledge. Furthermore,the formative assessments provide quick feedback to students in topics being studied and alertthem about the need to seek additional assistance. In addition, the ________ Department hasrecently implemented voluntary weekly recitation sessions for undergraduate courses having lowpassing rates. Recitation sessions in Statics are about 3 hours a week and they engage students towork in teams of two or three members to solve homework problems that are completed andsubmitted by the end of the recitation session. The recitation sessions are recommended to allstudents in the course; but, currently, they are not mandatory because of scheduling difficulties.These sessions will become mandatory for students that are repeating the course, students thatdid not pass the pretest over algebra, trigonometry, and calculus at the beginning of the semester,and for students that fail course exams. A teaching assistant coordinates efforts with the courseinstructor to help students during the recitation sessions. Results of student affect surveys showthat the perception and the interest of the students about what they are learning has improved as aresult of the online assessments and recitation sessions. It is argued that the described activitieshave increased student engagement in learning and student persistence to pass the class.Preliminary assessment results, presented and analyzed in this paper, show promisingaccomplishments in addressing student retention and engagement in Statics.

Vasquez, H., & Fuentes, A. A., & Freeman, R. A. (2012, June), Improving Student Retention and Engagement in Statics through Online Formative Assessments and Recitations Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21510

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