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“It’s So Easy A Caveman Can Do It:” Teaching Introductory Material Science For Increased Student Engagement.

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Innovations in Materials Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1390.1 - 15.1390.15



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Paper Authors

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Cindy Waters North Carolina A&T State University

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Stephen Krause Arizona State University

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Jacquelyn Kelly Arizona State University

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

“It’s so Easy a Caveman Can Do It:” Teaching Introductory Material Science for Increased Student Engagement. Education advocates and experts have a plethora of experiences and evidentiary research verifying the importance of student engagement in the education process. The millennial student is an expert at finding new tools and media resources to enhance their lives as they search for relevance in the activities they choose and the classes that they take. A challenge to educators is to increase the relevance of engineering core courses without spending an enormous amount of time planning changes to enhance student engagement. As educators, we are aware of topics in the core courses that are difficult for our students to learn, yet necessary for their development as engineers. Teaching styles that work with millennial students involve an instructor acting as facilitator of learning. Providing directed active engagement within the educational environment from the start of their experience will greatly assist the learning process of these students.

The modules described in this paper were created to enhance development of students' mental models and are exciting advances for those teaching in this area because of ease of implementation and adaptation for different student populations. Implementation of these activities has the potential to lower the barrier to faculty participation in active learning. The media slogan “It’s so easy, a caveperson can do it” is the guiding principle behind the development of these activities. This paper will also present reflections of a diverse cross- section of teaching faculty and students for these classroom methods to highlight how these pedagogical efforts may increase student self-efficacy for their technical learning. The research question for this work is; "To what extent do student engagement activities, such as concept- context worksheets, process oriented guided inquiry learning worksheets and student test design, support student learning in an Introduction to Material Science course?" In this paper we are reporting on the implementation of teaching and learning modules for such a course. The results were overwhelmingly positive when the students were asked to rate the effect of the classroom activities on their support of student learning.


Cognitive psychology discusses, Constructivism, a theory of cognition and learning stating that conceptual change is most likely to occur when learners are able to construct their own knowledge.1,2 How People Learn identifies the cognitive processes necessary in achieving conceptual change, which occurs through modification of a student's conceptual framework. Thinking of pieces of knowledge, or concepts, we can then picture the conceptual framework that links the framework together. To explain and predict systems or phenomena, mental models, (simplified and personalized conceptual interpretations, or models, in the mind) are constructed and students decide whether specific conclusions do or do not fit these models. 3 Useful mental models allow students to understand, explain, and predict behavior of systems and phenomena, whereas defective mental models, which lead to misconceptions, do not.

Mental models can, and often do, undergo change as new stimuli are introduced. The Constructivist Model of Learning states that learning is not the transfer of material from the head of the teacher to the head of the learner in one whole piece. Instead, it is the construction of knowledge in the mind of the learner.4 This constructed knowledge may or may not be consistent

Waters, C., & Krause, S., & Kelly, J. (2010, June), “It’s So Easy A Caveman Can Do It:” Teaching Introductory Material Science For Increased Student Engagement. Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16234

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