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Scenario Based Learning Approach In Teaching Statics

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 5: Solid Mechanics

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1083.1 - 9.1083.7

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Paper Authors

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Peter Schrader

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Jawa Mariappan

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Angela Shih

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

Session 2666

Scenario-Based Learning Approach in Teaching Statics

Jawaharlal Mariappan, Angela Shih, Peter G Schrader

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


This paper describes the initiatives currently underway at Cal Poly, Pomona to develop and implement a scenario-based learning approach to teach major concepts in statics. Statics is generally the first engineering course taken by most engineering students. The course is typically taught in lecture format, although several schools have been adopting a laboratory component. Statics is a prerequisite for many courses and materials covered in statics are crucial to just about every subsequent course that students will take. Yet, it is very common to see that students taking dynamics or mechanics of material lack basic skills such as drawing free body diagrams even though all of them completed statics and many of them even got good grades. Clearly, there has been little knowledge retention. We believe scenario-based learning approach offers an effective way of engaging learners and building competency mastery. This paper describes our experience in implementing scenario-based learning approach.


The predominant delivery method to engineering education today is a didactic, passive approach using lectures and textbooks. In this method, students rigidly follow the material in the textbook chapter-by-chapter. Test and homework problems are modeled after the problems found in the textbooks offering little variation. Currently, the basic engineering subjects such as mechanics (statics, dynamics, etc.) are taught using popular textbooks. These textbooks are well written, cover enormous amount of material, and serve as excellent resource materials. Most of the problems in the textbooks are well defined, with parameters clearly indicated. However, researchers1-5 assert that rather than didactic textbook problems, complex problem solving environments are critical for learning and the application of those skills. Didactic instructional approaches are less effective and engaging than methods involving more constructivist approaches. Furthermore, engineers must apply their knowledge in complex situations that extend far beyond the borders of the classroom.

Engineering in the real world is more than number crunching. It involves making decisions such as making the appropriate assumptions, model simplification, material/size selection, cost analysis, etc. As a result, with the current lecture approach, students may learn to solve problems and follow preset rules for a well-defined problem but lack the ability to transfer that learning into additional situations. In particular, they may fail to see the connection between solving a problem mathematically and real-world engineering application. Following the tenets of constructivism, we believe learning can be engaging, meaningful, and persistent if the joy of

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Schrader, P., & Mariappan, J., & Shih, A. (2004, June), Scenario Based Learning Approach In Teaching Statics Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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