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Teaching Many Sections Of Materials Science Laboratory

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Introduction to Materials Courses

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1143.1 - 14.1143.13



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Paper Authors


Surendra Gupta Rochester Institute of Technology

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“Vinnie” Gupta is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and a member of the graduate faculty of Materials Science & Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY). He is a recipient of the 2000 Eisenhart Award for Excellence in Teaching. At RIT, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Applied Mechanics, Computational Techniques, and Materials Science.

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

Teaching many sections of Materials Science Laboratory


This paper describes the design and development of instructional materials for a sophomore-level materials science lab course. The design goal was to achieve both depth and consistency in laboratory instruction in all the sections within a quarter, and from one quarter to another. Each laboratory experiment now has a set of PowerPoint slides for classroom presentation, multiple choice questions to assess students’ understanding of key concepts, and a survey to assess students’ perception of the quality of materials and instruction.

Student performance data on selected multiple choice questions is presented along with the cumulative data from the student surveys. Preliminary assessment of this data and in-class quizzes indicates that we have achieved instructional consistency across all the lab sections. Student performance can be further improved if the course instructor explicitly relates the theoretical principles to experiments students do in the lab. .


At our institution, every mechanical or industrial engineering major must take the introductory materials science course that includes a weekly lab component. The lab experiments cover standard mechanical testing and materials characterization techniques. In all experiments except x-ray diffraction, students get hands-on experience in using the lab equipment and instruments.

In the last seven years, our department has experienced such a significant growth in student enrollment that many of the lab sections in recent years were taught by student instructors. End of the academic quarter course evaluations indicated that the quality and depth of lab instruction varied significantly across the lab sections.

Our university is on quarter calendar system where each quarter is identified by a 5-digit code: first four digits indicate the beginning of the academic year and the last digit refers to the quarter (Fall = 1; Winter = 2; Spring = 3; Summer = 4). Table 1 lists the number of sections and instructors involved during the last two academic years. Each lab section is limited to a maximum of 12 students although on a few occasions this policy has been violated to accommodate students with schedule conflicts.

Table 1: 0304-344L Materials Science Lab Quarter ° 2007-1 2007-2 2007-3 2008-1 2008-2 2008-3 # of Sections 6 3 6 6 5 6 # of instructors 4 2 3 4 3 5 Total # of students 38 32 72 55 45 75

Excellence in lab instruction requires high-quality instructional materials that help both the instructor as well as students. Instructional depth can only be achieved if students are provided

Gupta, S. (2009, June), Teaching Many Sections Of Materials Science Laboratory Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4669

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