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Project-based Learning in Statics: Curriculum, Student Outcomes, and Ongoing Questions

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1017.1 - 24.1017.14



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Paper Authors


Rebecca A. Atadero Colorado State University

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Dr. Atadero is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Structural Engineering from the University of California, San Diego. Her research interests include inspection, management and repair of existing structures, FRP for civil engineering application and engineering education.

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Meena M. Balgopal Colorado State University

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Karen E Rambo-Hernandez Colorado State University

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Anne Marie Aramati Casper Colorado State University

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Project-Based Learning in Statics: Curriculum, Student Outcomes, and Ongoing QuestionsPrevious research results suggest that incorporating project-based learning in early engineeringcourses may help engineering educators address challenges facing engineering education such asthe need to retain and motivate students, the desire to introduce design early in the curriculum,and the promotion of teamwork and communication skills. However, formal evaluations of theeffect of projects on student outcomes are rare. In this NSF-supported study, the impact ofintroducing design projects in a large section of Statics was examined. Two course sections weretaught during the same semester by the same instructor. The control section followed a typicallecture format. During the intervention section, three design projects were integrated into thelecture-based course. Teams of five students were expected to apply the knowledge from lectureto design, construct, and present their solutions to three engineering challenges. The full paperand poster will include details of these three projects: creating Rube Goldberg machines(equilibrium concepts), building bridges (applications of statics), and moving objects up a ramp(friction).To evaluate the impact of these projects a collaborative team of investigators (professors inengineering and in education) devised an extensive assessment plan which made use of theConcept Assessment Tool for Statics (CATS, to measure changes in content knowledge (Steif2010)), Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT, to measure how the treatment might affectstudent career development and retention in engineering (Lent, Brown and Hackett, 1994), GoalOrientation Theory (GOT, to measure the treatment affected student dispositions towardlearning), and video analysis of group work during each of the three projects (to examine howstudents engaged with the concepts and with each other during design tasks). Briefly, the resultsrevealed that while the two sections had equivalent performance on the CATS, the SCCT modelindicated that students in the treatment section had a stronger relationship between self-efficacyand outcome expectations which produced a stronger intention to stay in engineering. The goalorientation results showed that the simple introduction of projects was able to change howstudents approached the course material (e.g., students in the treatment class had higher masterygoals than students in the control class). Video analysis results are considered preliminary butindicate that further study is needed on how the type of assignment prompt is related to studentlearning and on how group work may produce different impacts for men and women students.The full paper and poster will provide a more detailed summary of the above results.This project demonstrated the feasibility of introducing design projects in a large sophomorelevel course and measured some of the benefits that can be gained by doing so. The study alsoilluminated strengths and weaknesses of the assessment tools, made clear some particularchallenges of conducting this type of evaluation, and raised many questions for further research.The paper and poster will include discussion of these topics to aid future researchers who mightconsider incorporating project based learning into their coursework.Lent, R.W., Brown, S.D., and Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 45, 79-122.Steif, P. (2010). Concept Assessment Tool for Statics (CATS).

Atadero, R. A., & Balgopal, M. M., & Rambo-Hernandez, K. E., & Casper, A. M. A. (2014, June), Project-based Learning in Statics: Curriculum, Student Outcomes, and Ongoing Questions Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22950

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