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Student Designed Lab Experiments: How Students Use Pedagogical Best Practices

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies: Pedagogy of Lab-Oriented Courses

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1414.1 - 26.1414.11



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Paper Authors


Bridget M. Smyser Northeastern University

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Dr. Bridget M. Smyser is an Assistant Academic Specialist and the Lab Director of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

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Gregory J Kowalski Northeastern University

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Andrew F. Carbonar Northeastern University

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Student Designed Lab Experiments: How Students Use Pedagogical Best PracticesThe pedagogy of laboratory courses has been well discussed in the literature, but the extent towhich these best practices are incorporated into laboratory experiment design varies wildly. AtUnnamed University, various capstone design teams over the years have been tasked withdesigning new experimental apparatus for the undergraduate teaching laboratories along withappropriate lab handouts and other instructional material. In many cases, the students involved inthese projects have taken the lab class for which they are designing the experiment and havereported negative experiences, and thus are motivated to try to improve the class for futurestudents. Student designed labs have the potential to both reduce burden on instructors and alsoprovide a unique viewpoint that could result in labs that are more engaging for the student body.Historically, some of these student designed experiments have been incorporated into lab classessuccessfully, and some have not. Currently, there are three separate capstone teams involved indeveloping new experiments for the internal combustion engines course and the dynamics andvibrations course. Past and current capstone projects were examined to determine the extent towhich student designed labs incorporated established pedagogical best practices into theirdesigns. Common features of successful and unsuccessful designs were also examined. Initialresults indicate that one of the key features was a strong collaboration with an individual labinstructor, as even the best experimental apparatus will not be used if an instructor does not seethe value of incorporating it into their course. It also seems that teams who incorporatepedagogical research produce more sophisticated apparatus from a design perspective. Finally,reflections of the students involved in the development of these experiments are examined inorder to gain insight into how students perceive and use pedagogical information in their designs.

Smyser, B. M., & Kowalski, G. J., & Carbonar, A. F. (2015, June), Student Designed Lab Experiments: How Students Use Pedagogical Best Practices Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24751

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