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Prerequisite Courses and Retentivity as a Challenge

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Mechanics Concepts II

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1064.1 - 25.1064.11



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Paper Authors


Robert E. Efimba P.E. Howard University

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Robert E. Efimba, Sc.D., P.E., Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Howard University in Washington, D.C., received his four degrees in civil engineering and structural mechanics from MIT, and is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. He is listed in Who's Who in Engineering, was named the 2010
Outstanding Advisor of Tau Beta Pi, was installed as a 2011-2014 Governor of ASCE's Region 2, and is a past recipient of the ASCE Moisseiff Award for best paper in the field of structural design. His research is on finite elements in design applications and engineering mechanics education.

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Tori Rhoulac Smith Howard University

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Tori Rhoulac Smith began as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Howard University in 2003. In this position, she served as an academic and research Advisor, instructor for a variety of undergraduate and graduate engineering courses, and researcher on traffic engineering and engineering education projects. Feeling an overwhelming desire to work more directly on identifying and meeting the needs of increased recruitment, retention, and achievement of traditionally-underrepresented minority students in engineering disciplines, she shifted her career focus and now serves as an instructor and undergraduate education coordinator for the Department. Her primary focus is now undergraduate teaching, advising, curriculum, and evaluation. Rhoulac Smith earned master's of science and doctorate of philosophy degrees in civil engineering from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., in 2000 and 2003 respectively. She also earned a bachelor's of science degree in civil engineering from Howard University in 1998.

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Prerequisite Courses and Retentivity as a Challenge for Students In Engineering MechanicsAbstractA recurring problem for teachers of Engineering Mechanics is that many students sign up to starttheir courses when they are not quite ready for them. This situation of unreadiness may be due tolack of adequate preparation. At first, it is easy to want to ascribe the problem to lack of coverageof pertinent material in the prerequisite course(s). However, the more likely cause is an amazingamnesia that leaves the students with very few of the important concepts learned in theprerequisite courses that are needed for the mechanics course that they are about to start.This phenomenon is observed even among some of the best students who get top grades in theprerequisite courses by demonstrating mastery of the material, but then “draw a blank” when itcomes time to use that material in a subsequent course.This paper presents and analyzes the problem, identifies the root causes, and presents anddemonstrates, with supporting data, some proven effective strategies for addressing andcombating the problem.

Efimba, R. E., & Rhoulac Smith, T. (2012, June), Prerequisite Courses and Retentivity as a Challenge Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21821

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