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Incorporating Non Traditional Teaching Techniques In A Technical Core Course

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.331.1 - 3.331.8

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Paper Authors

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James L. Greer

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James P. Solti

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James M., Jr. Greer

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

Incorporating Non-Traditional Teaching Techniques in a Technical Core Course

James P. Solti, James M. Greer, Jr. and James L. Greer Department of Engineering Mechanics United States Air Force Academy


This paper describes motivating the implementation of non-traditional teaching techniques, such as problem-based and cooperative learning, in a technical core course at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA). All students at USAFA are required to take a certain common “core” of courses. Among these courses is an Engineering Mechanics course covering the fundamentals of Statics and Strength of Materials (EM 200). Many of the approximately 600 students who take the course each semester have neither the desire nor the inclination to pursue a technical major. Therefore, the challenge to the Course Director (CD), who responsibility for course content and oversight during the semester, and to the eleven instructors who teach the course, is to effectively engage both the technically inclined (who might find the course moving too slowly) and those who are nearly overwhelmed every period. Because EM 200 is not intended to be an introductory engineering course for technical majors, but rather a course for developing and enhancing critical thinking and problem solving skills, the pace of the course is deliberately somewhat relaxed. This makes it easier to introduce non-conventional teaching approaches, such as cooperative learning. Each of the 40 lesson-outlines provided to the cadre of instructors by the CD includes a “Pedagogical Thought of the Day (PTOD)” encouraging instructors to use innovative teaching methods in the classroom. Weekly lesson conferences are held to exchange lessons learned which instructors annotate each day as “Pedagogical Results of the Day (PROD).” In these conferences, specific approaches and methods are shared with the group and critiqued. The paper briefly discusses the use of the PTODs and PRODs in EM 200 during the Fall 1997 semester at the Air Force Academy.

Pedagogical Thought of the Day

“Routine and complacency: the nemeses of the teaching profession.”

Teaching is an extremely time-consuming and challenging career choice. Besides grading assignments from previous classes and preparing lecture material for upcoming classes, there are the responsibilities of advising students, conducting research, writing publications, and a myriad of other tasks ranging from everyday administrative issues to obscure and miscellaneous additional duties. Military life and its attendant duties bring with them an additional set of responsibilities. With all these pressures, the classroom can suffer. Only through extraordinary effort on the part of the instructors is this avoided. For the most part, the students at the Academy are quite successful in learning the prescribed materials. However, the short in-class contact time gives scant opportunity to really teach and practice critical thinking skills, problem solving, and to motivate life-

Greer, J. L., & Solti, J. P., & Greer, J. M. J. (1998, June), Incorporating Non Traditional Teaching Techniques In A Technical Core Course Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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