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Tailoring Cooperative Learning Events For Engineering Classes

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Student Teams & Active Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1150.1 - 9.1150.14



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Paper Authors

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Steven Zemke

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Jennifer Beller

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Donald Elger

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

Session 2131

Tailoring Cooperative Learning Events for Engineering Classes

Steven C. Zemke, Donald F. Elger, Jennifer Beller University of Idaho/University of Idaho/Washington St. University


Faculty value high student engagement that leads to high learning outcomes. While high student engagement is frequently difficult to achieve, numerous studies have shown that cooperative learning events produce greater student engagement in a wide variety of disciplines. However, many students have had negative experiences with "group work" and are hesitant to participate. In addition, it can be unclear when creating a cooperative educational event for engineering classes whether it will work as planned. Our question is:

“What are the important design features when tailoring cooperative educational events for engineering classes?”

We designed and applied fifteen distinct cooperative learning events while teaching an undergraduate materials science course of twenty-five students. Three separate instruments were used to collect student perceptions of the learning events and the data was then triangulated to determine and verify trends. The first instrument was a student survey immediately following each event to collect “snapshot” perceptions. The second instrument was an end of term activity in which each student rank ordered the individual events from “most helpful in learning,” to “least helpful in learning.” The third instrument was end of term qualitative data where the students described in writing what made the “most helpful” events helpful and the “least helpful” events least helpful.

We rated the events from excellent to poor based on the collected data. The spread of the event ratings allowed us to discover two important design features. (1) Design each event so that the students begin with the concepts and are guided through the application. This connection of the concept, application, and interrelationship between them greatly enhances learning. The learning environment is weakened when concept and application are taught separately. (2) Design each event so that students need to create and use visual elements in the learning. Student creation and subsequent use of graphs, sketches, or diagrams makes the learning more concrete and also facilitates collaboration.

Students overwhelmingly indicated that use of effective cooperative events enabled them to more easily master difficult material. The students did not consider effective cooperative events merely “group work.”

Proceeding of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Zemke, S., & Beller, J., & Elger, D. (2004, June), Tailoring Cooperative Learning Events For Engineering Classes Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12832

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