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Student Reflection, Self-Assessment, and Categorization of Errors on Exam Questions as a Tool to Guide Self-Repair and Profile Student Strengths and Weaknesses in a Course

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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

Mechanical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1426.1 - 26.1426.17



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Paper Authors


David Benson Arizona State University

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Dr. David Benson is a Senior Lecturer with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Dr. Benson develops and teaches classes in "Introduction to Engineering" and project-based classes such as EPICS and Global Engineering.

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Haolin Zhu Arizona State University

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Haolin Zhu is a faculty lecturer in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. She received her Ph.D. in Solid Mechanics from Cornell University. Currently she focuses on the freshman engineering program, as well as designing and teaching mechanical engineering courses.

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Student Reflection, Self-Assessment and Categorization of Errors on Exam Questions as a Tool to Guide Self-Repair and Profile Student Strengths and Weaknesses in a CourseScores of student work products (assignments, exams, essays, oral presentations) are often used asindicators of student performance and to determine whether or not students have mastered thelearning outcomes of a course and are ready for the next course in a course sequence in a discipline.Using these positive indicators is often not sufficient to gain a detailed understanding of the levelof students’ mastery and preparedness for each specific concept, which may be imperative forfuture courses in the discipline. Persistent student errors in various categories, while not enoughto prevent the student from passing a class and moving forward, can often create lasting academicand professional challenges for students.Using guided reflective thinking and self-assessment on the ‘causes’ of a mistake or error on anexam question, this research seeks to develop an approach to understanding gaps in students’preparedness for future courses in the discipline and to provide students with direction for self-repair. Students enrolled in two core Mechanical Engineering courses, “Introduction toEngineering” and “Solid Mechanics”, performed an exam reflection and self-assessment after eachexam/quiz to review their performance and categorize types of errors made on each concept intothe following pre-defined categories: Mathematical Component; Problem Solving Component andEngineering Component. These categories were devised to narrow discussion on the source orsources (multiple entries are allowed) of student errors on a given exam problem. In each of thesecategories students would compare their solution to a sample correct solution and attempt toidentify all of the factors that influenced their answer, if not perfect. For example, in theMathematical Component, common error causes were listed as minor mathematics or ‘slip’ typesof errors, algebra and calculus errors (mechanics of the process), and errors in understandingunderlying mathematics concept. As such each error type would be indicative of a unique repairpath for the student for future problems. For the Problem Solving Component the sub-categorieswere: units mismatch, omitted parts of the question (comprehension errors), and un-organizedapproach; and in the Engineering Component the sub-categories were: engineering knowledge gap(missing details), errors in understanding of concepts, difficulties with synthesis of multiple partsof a problem, and evaluation errors.Upon completion of the self-survey, students’ reflection and self-report of error types werereviewed by instructors and compared with their answers on the exams. As an assignment, studentsalso analyzed the root cause of the errors for each problem and developed strategies to improveperformance in future tests. Aggregate data was also compiled for instructor use to profile the typesof errors present in the cohort and to track changes and improvement in error types on subsequentexams. This self-reflection and error analysis serve three main purposes for a course:determination of weaknesses by students used to develop strategies to improve performance onfuture tests; identification of gaps in students’ understanding of the key concepts by facultymembers; and reporting to other faculty members on the strengths and weaknesses of a cohort ofstudents.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015