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Self Directed Projects to Increase Engagement and Satisfaction in Basic Programming Course

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2017 FYEE Conference


Daytona Beach, Florida

Publication Date

August 6, 2017

Start Date

August 6, 2017

End Date

August 8, 2017

Conference Session

WIP: Engineering Education Research - Focus on Engagement

Tagged Topics

Diversity and FYEE Conference - Works in Progress Submission

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Paper Authors


Tonya Whitehead Wayne State University Orcid 16x16

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Ms. Whitehead is a Part-time Faculty in Basic Engineering and Doctoral Candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Wayne State University. She also holds a Graduate Student Assistantship in the Office for Teaching and Learning, where she focuses on course development for STEM and graduate student pedagogy training. The university honored her with the Garrett T. Heberlein Endowed Award for Excellence in Teaching for Graduate Students in 2017 for her work improving undergraduate engineering courses. Prior to Wayne State, she completed a Master of Science in Manufacturing and Engineering Management and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering at Michigan State University.

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Jeffrey Potoff Wayne State University

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Dr. Jeffrey Potoff is a Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and the Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs for the College of Engineering at Wayne State University. Potoff received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 1999, and his BS in Chemical Engineering in 1994 from Michigan State University. Prof. Potoff is interested on improving the engagement of engineering students in their coursework through the implementation of evidenced-based teaching practices.

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Introductory programming courses can be very challenging, leading to students being disengaged and having difficulty relating the material to their specific area of study. We hypothesize that a student-centered project will lead to greater student motivation, satisfaction, and opportunity to excel. The newly designed final project uses the same programming and computation tools taught in the course and challenges students to analyze large sets of data. A pilot implementation occurred during Fall 2016 across three sections of the course, with different instructors involving, slightly different requirements and assignment structures. Based on instructor assessment and student feedback, revisions were made to the structure of the project and it was rolled out to both the sections in Winter 2017. To ensure consistency, both sections were team taught by the same two instructors. The new final project consists of multiple group and individual assignments. Assignments are staggered to not only ensure that groups are progressing successfully toward an effective final product, but also that all team members are making significant contributions. Due to the positive feedback received so far, for Fall 2017 we will be employing pre- and post- surveys to quantify if and how the project impacts students’ motivation. One goal of this activity is to create a framework for group projects to engage and motivate students that can be easily implemented in other courses or at other universities.

Whitehead, T., & Potoff, J. (2017, August), Self Directed Projects to Increase Engagement and Satisfaction in Basic Programming Course Paper presented at 2017 FYEE Conference, Daytona Beach, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--29433

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