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Increasing The Class Participation Experience For Engineers

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade for Teaching I

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.751.1 - 11.751.11



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Paper Authors


Kenneth McDonald U.S. Military Academy

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Kenneth McDonald is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the US Military Academy. He has served in numerous assignments throughout his military career to include the U.S., Iraq, Germany, Kosovo, and Korea. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the states of Virginia and Wyoming and has a PhD in geological engineering, mastes degrees in geomorphology, city/regional planning and environmental engineering and a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.

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


Class participation and instructor points are viewed by many as “give away” points, usually subjectively based. This study focused on techniques to encourage environmental engineering student participation in class discussion and exercises, while trying to quantify procedures to assess participation. Students were graded on presenting a relevant and timely environmental article to the class as a basis for generating discussion. Once an overview of the article was presented, the student was required to generate a general discussion with the class lasting a few minutes. These discussion sessions occurred the first five minutes of every class. Students were graded on their overview presentation as well as their level of participation during the discussion sessions of other articles. The study was conducted in four phases. First, the instructor explained the expectations verbally and in writing. An example article was present by the instructor and students were led through an example discussion. The second phase was a student feedback session conducted at 25% through the course. The third phase consisted of additional feedback in the form of a written assessment of the participation grade and tailored suggested methods of improvement to each student. During this phase, students were given the opportunity to discuss results individually with the instructor. The final phase was the overall assessment of student performance through the course of the semester with a final letter grade assigned and points awarded. After grades were assigned, a survey was conducted to determine the worthiness of the exercise from the perspective of the student. Results indicate initial student hesitancy to accept the exercise as a worthy endeavor. As the semester progressed, results indicate an attitude shift as students began to enjoy the articles and viewed them as an opportunity to learn about the subject matter in a real world context. The feedback shocked some students into participating more. Feedback was viewed positively as an opportunity to assist the student and let them know “where they stood”. Students complained the tracking mechanism led students to say anything regardless of the content so they could be counted toward a score. Students believed the grades assigned were fair and no student felt the process unfair. Results indicate an overall increase in class participation while developing a workable quantitative method for assessing participation grades.

McDonald, K. (2006, June), Increasing The Class Participation Experience For Engineers Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--617

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