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Sustainable Reform of "Introductory Dynamics" Driven by a Community of Practice

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Teaching Dynamics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1148.1 - 24.1148.12



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Paper Authors


Matthew West University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Matthew West is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining Illinois he was on the faculty of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University and the Department of Mathematics at the University of California, Davis. Prof. West holds a Ph.D. in Control and Dynamical Systems from the California Institute of Technology and a B.Sc. in Pure and Applied Mathematics from the University of Western Australia.

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Geoffrey L. Herman University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Geoffrey L. Herman is a visiting assistant professor with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education. He earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Mavis Future Faculty Fellow and conducted postdoctoral research with Ruth Streveler in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research interests include creating systems for sustainable improvement in engineering education, promoting intrinsic motivation in the classroom, conceptual change and development in engineering students, and change in faculty beliefs about teaching and learning. He is a recipient of the 2011 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. He helps steer the College of Engineering Dean’s Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program and consults with the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois.

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Sustainable Reform of “Introductory Dynamics” Driven by a Community of Practice As part of a broader effort to promote the sustainable adoption of evidence-based pedago-gies at our institution, the course “Introductory Dynamics” has been redesigned to (1) im-prove student’s low engagement and enthusiasm, (2) improve instructor’s experience andreduce their high workload, and (3) maintain and elevate the current standards for content.“Introductory Dynamics” is one of the core second-year mechanics classes in our engineer-ing curriculum, serving approximately 800 students per year. To promote sustainability ofthe reforms, the course was redesigned through a Community of Practice (CoP), consistingof faculty who collaborated closely to design and implement changes and who developedcommunal knowledge of the reforms. Evaluation of reforms focused on student satisfactionas expressed through surveys and focus groups. To address the sustainability of reforms, many components of the course were facilitatedor automated by online technologies, including online homework assignments, online dis-cussion forums for office hours, online course notes and video recordings, and online examresults. This resulted in a reduction in instructor workload that allowed for greater emphasison student-instructor interactions. To promote student engagement, the CoP focused on injecting context-rich, real-worldengineering problems across the course. These examples were presented in online referencematerials and served as the basis for collaborative problem solving in discussion sections.Student/TA ratios were reduced in the discussion sections to better facilitate group-workdynamics. In addition, instructors introduced active learning techniques such as iClickersinto the large lectures. The various reforms were progressively developed and evaluated, with full implemen-tation in the Spring 2013 semester. The use of group work in discussions was initially ahighly contentious idea, with students organizing complaints and lobbying to change back toindividual work. By mid-semester, however, student opinion had dramatically shifted, withjust 11% of students expressing a desire to work in an individual setting. This favorableopinion of the new discussion format extended to a 96% student-satisfaction rating for TAs,and every one of the nine TAs appeared on the student-selected “List of Teachers Rankedas Excellent.” The online components of the course also had good outcomes, with student satisfactionratings of 95% for the online homeworks, 87% for the help web-forum, 96% for the onlinenotes, and 85% for the new exam system. Increased student engagement was reflected inincreased average attendance rates, which were 82% for lectures and 88% for discussionsections, versus attendance rates below 50% in comparable courses. These reforms resulted in a superior experience for course instructors, with faculty sup-porting each other closely within the Community of Practice framework. Consequenty, thisreform strategy is currently expanding, being implemented in “Introductory Solid Mechan-ics,” and is scheduled for implementation next in “Introductory Statics.”

West, M., & Herman, G. L. (2014, June), Sustainable Reform of "Introductory Dynamics" Driven by a Community of Practice Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23081

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