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Promote Students' Understanding of Engineering Dynamics: A True/False Reasoning Practice

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Statics and Dynamics in Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Shaobo Huang South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Dr. Shaobo Huang is an Assistant Professor and the Stensaas Endowed STEM Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Her research interests include student retention and academic performance in engineering, student achievement evaluation and assessment, and K-12 STEM curriculum design.

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John M. Mativo University of Georgia

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Dr. John Mativo is Associate Professor at the University of Georgia

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Dynamics is a challenging course for many engineering students. Last year, 15- 20% of the students who enrolled in dynamics did not pass the course (received a grade of D or lower) at a 4-year engineering college in the Midwestern U.S. Students indicated that this course was challenging because of two primary reasons: the requirement of mathematical skills and the “understanding” of the concepts and principles. Students mentioned that they could not develop the connections between specific problems and the dynamics principles due to their superficial understanding.

Concept inventories are a tool that can help promote students’ understandings of engineering courses. However, there are limited resources of valid concept inventories and the questions may not cover all topics in engineering dynamics. Furthermore, concept inventories requires students to abstract the concepts from a set of questions, which is not explicit enough to trigger deeper thinking in some students especially in those who may fail the course.

To promote students’ thinking over the concepts/principles in dynamics and to understand students’ misunderstandings, this study adapted/developed a set of conceptual true or false questions for dynamics. The topics include various motions in kinematics, Newton’s second law of motion, work and energy, and linear/angular impulse and momentum for particles and rigid bodies. Each true or false question is followed by a reasoning practice. Besides judging the correctness of a statement, the students need to explain the reason(s) and/or list one example to support/against the statement. Six to ten questions were designed at the end of each session in the dynamics course. Students were asked to work individually for 10-15 minutes and then join team discussions for 15 minutes. A different color of pen is required if a student would like to change his/her answers during a discussion.

To analyze the data, students’ responses were grouped in cohorts according to their scores in a pretest at the beginning of the semester as well as the scores gained from the homework assignments. By comparing and analyzing cohort-student responses in the individual and team practices, a preliminary model of misunderstandings in dynamics was created. Students’ achievement in the current semester (experimental group) was compared with that in the previous semester (control group). The results suggest that this practice effectively promotes students’ learning of dynamics course.

Huang, S., & Mativo, J. M. (2016, June), Promote Students' Understanding of Engineering Dynamics: A True/False Reasoning Practice Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25984

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