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Learning Statics by Feeling: Effects of Everyday Examples on Confidence and Identity Development

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Statics - They can move at constant velocity!

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Page Count


Page Numbers

23.856.1 - 23.856.19



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Paper Authors


Janet Y Tsai University of Colorado at Boulder Orcid 16x16

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Janet Y. Tsai is a doctoral student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, whose work examines and develops initiatives to encourage more students, especially women, into the field of engineering. Currently, Tsai's research focuses on understanding the dynamics of how status and prestige are constructed among novice engineers.

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Daria A Kotys-Schwartz University of Colorado Boulder

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Daria Kotys-Schwartz is the Design Center Colorado Co-Director and an Instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. She received B.S. and M.S degrees in mechanical engineering 
from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Kotys-Schwartz has focused her research in engineering student learning, retention, and student identity development within the context of engineering design. She is currently investigating the impact of a four-year hands-on design curriculum in engineering, a holistic approach to student retention, the effects of service learning in engineering education, and informal learning in engineering.

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Michael Patrick Hannigan University of Colorado - Boulder

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Learning Statics by Feeling: Effects of Everyday Examples on Confidence and Identity DevelopmentEngineering educators looking to design optimum learning experiences for their classes nowhave several proven instructional methods to consider including active learning, use of everydayexamples in engineering, and situated/experiential learning. As students encounter gatewaycourses along the engineering degree path, that they must pass and understand well to besuccessful in subsequent courses, the adoption of these instructional methods instead of thetraditional lecture-based model is a promising way to keep students engaged while learningfundamental technical subjects. These newer instructional techniques are useful to maintainstudent interest and morale through the technical core engineering courses required during thesecond and third years of an engineering degree, in which real-world projects are difficult to fitinto the crowded curriculum and students can lose the applied reality of engineering principleswithin abstract theory and equations. Greater emphasis on teaching using relevant examples hasbeen studied and promoted by programs such as the Engage Engineering - Everyday Examples inEngineering project as educators strive to keep practicality alive even when teaching studentsabstract methods of engineering analysis [1]. While evidence supports greater studentengagement and conceptual knowledge gains due to the use of everyday examples, the effects onstudent identity development and confidence have not been explicitly related to the type ofinstruction they receive.A novel teaching approach, the Body-Based Approach, uses the frameworks of active learning,everyday engineering examples, and situated learning, and is being adopted for recitations as partof an Engineering Statics course in Fall 2012 at a large public university. An experimental studywith over 200 sophomore Mechanical Engineering students, this approach is being administeredthrough weekly mandatory recitations which complement traditional lectures offered twice aweek (n=200). A total of 6 recitation sections are split equally into two flavors depending on thetype of examples used: Body-Based or External. All recitations incorporate active learningactivities and awareness of the situated process of learning, with care taken to select relevant andeasily relatable examples for students to physically interact with and learn from. While the Body-Based Approach uses different aspects of the body and internal body sensations to illustrateconcepts like Forces, Moments, Friction, Equilibrium, and Distributed Loading, the ExternalApproach uses more traditional examples including C-clamps, desk chairs, trees, and othercommon objects that are separate from the body but still tangible. During recitations, studentswork in small groups of 3 to 4 students to complete a variety of learning activities using eitherBody-Based or External examples, under the guidance of two co-instructing RecitationInstructors. The resulting changes to student conceptual knowledge, feelings of belonging,confidence, and engagement are being examined both quantitatively and qualitatively during thecourse of the semester.This paper introduces the research design, provides examples of the curriculum, and details onexecuting such a course model with a team of Recitation Instructors. Additionally, initialanalysis of the Pre-/Post- Concept Inventories and Pre-/Post- Engineering Attitudinal Surveyswill be presented for discussion.Keywords: Active learning, situated learning, everyday examples[1] Campbell, P. et al. “Integrating Applications in the Teaching of Fundamental Concepts.”American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition. June 22-25,2008, Pittsburgh, PA.

Tsai, J. Y., & Kotys-Schwartz, D. A., & Hannigan, M. P. (2013, June), Learning Statics by Feeling: Effects of Everyday Examples on Confidence and Identity Development Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19870

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