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Incorporating Active Learning In An Engineering Materials Science Course

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.571.1 - 6.571.11

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John Bridge

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

Session 1664

Incorporating Active Learning in an Engineering Materials Science Course

Lieutenant Colonel John W. Bridge United States Military Academy, West Point, New York


This paper shares the experiences the author has had over the last several years incorporating active learning in the classroom and laboratory. Examined are ways to engage and motivate the students to take an active role in their learning which includes direct instruction, cooperative learning, hands-on “exploratory” classroom and laboratory experiences, reading logs, etc. The author submits that in most classes, some degree of direct instruction is necessary to “actively” engage the student’s minds, particularly in introducing new material, but also insists that student- based class activities are essential to reinforce and “connect” this knowledge. Materials science naturally lends itself to a variety of interesting and exciting activities that allow the student to interactively learn about the world of engineering materials. Some of these activities are discussed in their application to atomic structure, diffusion, strengthening mechanisms, failure mechanisms, and ferrous and nonferrous materials.

I. Introduction

In a typical college-level engineering materials science class, which is part of an accredited mechanical engineering program, there is a lot of material covered. Much of this material may be very different from what students have experienced in their other engineering courses. In many institutions, only one materials science course is required1. Yet, the principles introduced in this course are critical to understanding the properties (and modification of), and behavior of all of the classes of materials used today in the design, testing and fabrication of engineering components, structures, and vehicles. Since a solid understanding of materials is vital in the design of a successful and safe product, the challenge is to insure that each engineering student has truly learned the concepts presented and can apply them to the processing and selection of the right engineering material.

Certainly every instructor wants a high level of learning from all of his or her students. Through trial and error, I have found that this course lends itself nicely to the incorporation of many active learning exercises that appear to enhance longer-term learning. The goal of these activities is to get the students to actively do the thinking and learning. This paper addresses several activities that are organized under each of the five main subject area blocks of the course, as described below. Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Bridge, J. (2001, June), Incorporating Active Learning In An Engineering Materials Science Course Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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