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Incorporating Clickers and Peer Instruction into Large Structural Engineering Classrooms

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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

Hey You: Effectively Engaging Students in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.759.1 - 25.759.19



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Paper Authors


Lelli Van Den Einde University of California, San Diego

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Lelli Van Den Einde is a tenure-track lecturer at UC, San Diego, and focuses mostly on undergraduate education in mechanics and design courses. Her past research was in the seismic design of bridge systems, but she is currently focused on assessing and improving engineering education pedagogy through technology. She has been the Faculty Advisor for UC, San Diego’s Society of Civil and Structural Engineers (SCSE), a student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, for the past two years. Additionally, Van Den Einde is also the Faculty Advisor for the ASCE Concrete Canoe competition team. She teaches a two-quarter technical elective course, which integrates not just the technical components of the concrete canoe project, but vital project management skills. Professionally, Van Den Einde is a member of ASCE and is currently the Secretary and Treasurer for the San Diego Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) chapter. Van Den Einde has her heart in the students’ interests.

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Samuel Holton Lee University of California, San Diego

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Jacqueline Linh Le University of California, San Diego

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Incorporating Clickers and Peer Instruction into Large Structural Engineering ClassroomsInteraction and feedback are particularly challenging in large lecture environments, where classsize limits student-faculty interaction. Clickers can be used to ensure students understandfundamental concepts by providing instant feedback to the instructor about student knowledgegaps or misconceptions. The use of clickers also helps maintain students’ motivation andengagement in what’s going on in class, and provides an opportunity for Peer Instruction (PI).Clickers have been used since 1998 in many science courses such as physics, biology andchemistry, but have only recently been implemented in large engineering courses. This paperdemonstrates the use of clickers in two large introductory Structural Engineering courses at amajor public research university. Implementation details and best practices are highlighted.In the traditional pedagogical approach, students are first exposed to the material in lecture, andthen must learn challenging material through their textbook and homework, and ultimately showknowledge mastery through exams. This approach provides little opportunity for feedback duringthe learning process. This is contrasted with requiring that students are first exposed to anddevelop fundamental understanding of material on their own through reading assignments priorto lecture. This allows students to construct their understanding individually. This initialknowledge is then tested via clickers at the beginning of class to determine if students haveadequately prepared to engage and learn in lecture. The instructor then presents challengingmaterial through a combination of traditional lecture and clicker-based concept questionsallowing students to test their understanding of the material. Clickers provide the instructorwith instantaneous feedback on whether students have mastered the concept, or if they havesignificant misconceptions, which could be addressed immediately. This process gives studentsthe opportunity to receive expert help and explanation from the instructor when they need it.Use of clickers during lecture also supports the implementation of PI to complement thetraditional lecture style. In PI, students first answer a question individually, and then discuss theconcepts with their peers. Students then answer the same or a similar question again, allowingthem to change their answers based on the discussion. Observations from case studies presentedin this paper demonstrate that often peer discussion of clicker questions is an engaging andeffective technique that increases student comprehension. Should PI cause the consensus answerto converge to an incorrect solution, then the instructor can discuss and correct themisconception.The assessment of overall impact on student learning using clickers will be presented throughresults from formative and summative assessments, including daily reading quiz scores, midtermgrades, and post-course student surveys. Additional evidence for improved student achievementwill be presented qualitatively, including descriptions of student engagement in the materialpresented during lectures. Finally, the use of clickers to achieve Peer Instruction will bediscussed in terms of its implementation, strengths, and limitations in the context of a largelecture hall environment. This paper asserts that the use of clickers supports an effective learningprocess that provides greater opportunity for students to get feedback from their peers and fromthe expert professor.  

Van Den Einde, L., & Lee, S. H., & Le, J. L. (2012, June), Incorporating Clickers and Peer Instruction into Large Structural Engineering Classrooms Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21516

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: © 2012 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