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Lessons Learned From Teaching And Assessment In The Physics For Engineers Course Sequence

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Programmatic Issues in Physics or Engineering Physics

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.843.1 - 14.843.9



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Paper Authors


Anca Sala Baker College

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Dr. Sala is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Baker College in Flint, MI. She is actively involved in teaching and developing engineering curriculum, and leads the ABET accreditation activities in the department. She is a member of ASEE, ASME, and OSA.

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Raghu Echempati Kettering University

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Dr. Echempati is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University, Flint, MI. His area of expertise is Design and CAE. He is a member of ASME, SAE and ASEE.

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

Lessons Learned from Teaching and Assessment in the Physics for Engineers Course Sequence Abstract

This paper is based on a continuation of a previous study undertaken by the authors, which looked at achievement of Student Learning Outcomes in one of the calculus-based introductory Physics courses taught to undergraduate Mechanical Engineering students. The paper presents results obtained from an expanded study that now includes all courses in the sequence. We are focusing on student learning outcomes that are pre-requisite knowledge to subsequent core engineering courses, and that relate directly to ABET required program outcomes. Special emphasis is placed on results from teaching and assessment in the Mechanics course. Analysis of data obtained over the course of two academic years yielded good insights into student learning, and recommendations to increase teaching effectiveness.

1. Introduction

In this paper we are looking at direct assessment of achievement of Student Learning Outcomes in the Introductory Physics sequence of courses taught to undergraduate Mechanical Engineering students at first author’s institution. The structures of the academic year and of the Physics sequence are described in a previous paper1. The sequence consists of three courses: General Physics I covering Mechanics, General Physics II covering Electricity and Magnetism, and General Physics III covering Oscillations, Waves, Thermodynamics, Optics, and Modern Physics.

Direct assessment of student learning has become the preferred tool used by engineering programs across the country to demonstrate achievement of Program Outcomes, and increasingly also Program Educational Objectives at the recommendation of ABET, the engineering and technology accreditation body2, 3. Several papers presented in recent years at the ASEE Annual Conferences have described valuable direct assessment methodologies applied to core engineering courses4, 5. These methods utilize an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of graded student assignments and match those to Student Learning Outcomes in the course, and ultimately to the Program Outcomes. We have adopted a similar procedure to assess achievement in the Physics courses. In addition we are placing special emphasis on the Physics SLO’s connected to future core engineering courses.

2. Student Learning Outcomes in Introductory Physics Courses

The knowledge and abilities we want our students to possess after completing the courses in their program are expressed in condensed form by the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) associated with each course. The SLO’s must support achievement of the a)-k) ABET Program Outcomes (PO), general to all engineering programs, as well as any outcomes specific to certain engineering disciplines. For example, for Mechanical Engineering, three more outcomes labeled l)-n) can be defined. The a)-n) Program Outcomes for Mechanical Engineering are given in the Appendix.


Sala, A., & Echempati, R. (2009, June), Lessons Learned From Teaching And Assessment In The Physics For Engineers Course Sequence Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5623

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