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Spicing Up Statics Lectures With Concept Questions And 'around Town' Assignments

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Improving Statics and Dynamics Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1015.1 - 7.1015.7



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Paper Authors

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Christine Masters

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Renata Engel

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

Main Menu Session 2368

Spicing up Statics Lectures with Concept Questions and ‘Around Town’ Assignments

Christine B. Masters, Renata S. Engel Engineering Science and Mechanics Department The Pennsylvania State University


Concept questions and ‘around town’ assignments were incorporated into Penn State’s introductory statics course during the Fall 2001 semester in an attempt to reinforce key concepts, catch student’s attention, provide in-class feedback, and extend textbook work to ‘real world’ applications without major changes to the current course format. The concept questions are a series of multiple choice, no calculation questions, each addressing a single statics concept. In the lecture recitation format 1 to 2 questions were used in the middle and the end of each lecture loosely following Eric Mazur’s Peer Instruction model. By holding up one of 4 colored index cards (provided at the beginning of the semester), the instructors received immediate feedback on the range of student understanding, opening the door to timely discussions targeted to the needs of an individual class. The use of ‘think-pair-share’ proved quite useful with the concept questions as well. In addition, students were charged with the optional task of looking ‘around town’ for real world examples related to the specific lecture topics. These student submissions (either hand sketched or digitally photographed) provided a handy recap of the previous topic at the beginning of the next lecture. The one or two most interesting / most relevant applications received a small prize, providing incentive for participation and increasing enthusiasm and interest in the topics among the class. While they don’t represent overall course reform, both the concept questions and the ‘around town’ assignments are easy to implement into any existing statics course to reinforce basic concepts, provide immediate student comprehension feedback and foster enthusiasm among the students.


During the Fall 2001 semester, the majority of students enrolled in Statics at Penn State- University Park were taught using a lecture/recitation format. Using this delivery method a faculty member presented one lecture each week to a large class of students (>150) and teaching assistants presented corresponding problems during the remaining two weekly class sessions to the students in smaller sections (approximately 40 students in each section). A set of notes that were reflective of the material covered during the lecture was distributed to the students at the start of each lecture class.

This method has certain attributes that were extremely valuable: i) uniformity—all sections would cover the same material and to the same depth; ii) complete coverage—the notes would ensure that students would have the level of detail of the concepts prior to the recitation sessions; iii) efficiency of lecture class time—rather than constructing the notes on the board or overhead the lecture instructor spent class time emphasizing certain details in the notes, offering alternate explanations, elaborating on subtleties, and connecting the notes to experience.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Masters, C., & Engel, R. (2002, June), Spicing Up Statics Lectures With Concept Questions And 'around Town' Assignments Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10326

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