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Teaching Mechanics 101

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Engaging Upper Level Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1217.1 - 10.1217.18



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Paper Authors

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Ronald Welch

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

Session 1315

Teaching Mechanics 101 Ronald Welch, Allen Estes United States Military Academy


A typical class might start with a video and/or hands-on demonstration, lead to an example problem with theory provided just in time to allow solving of the problem at hand, and end with group work on another in-class example problem. Carefully worded questions draw the student into the learning and allow the student to draw upon previous knowledge to provide the building blocks for construction of new knowledge. Repetition and manipulation of new concepts is possible through the proper use of instructional technology. Sound innovative? Sounds new? Not really, these types of techniques have been used for many years at the United States Military Academy and probably at most schools at the turn of the century. Hands-on models were once the corner stone of every class in mechanics, but many classrooms today are only equipped with a textbook, a chalkboard (if lucky), and a computer projection system. Is this enough? No! How can faculty return to a style in today’s classrooms that is more conducive to student-centered learning? This paper will present the daily classroom activities in a basic Mechanics course (and other courses as well) that greatly improve the quality of the instruction and student learning. Assessment will be provided to demonstrate the effectiveness of these pedagogical basics on the student learning and professor’s classroom performance.

I. Introduction

So how do you like to learn a new concept? Read a textbook and/or journal article on the subject? Maybe throw in some type of experiment with technology to simulate the theory? Felder points out that in most areas we as faculty learn differently than how students learn best.1 Our mission is to assist students with varying learning styles to learn new concepts. So how do students like to learn? How do they learn best? Considering the 1990 Seymour and Hewitt2 study that shows 40 percent of engineering undergrads switch from science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines due primarily to poor teaching, maybe a discussion of engaging classroom activities that help students learn is appropriate.

What were the techniques used by some of the best teachers from the past? Maybe the authors cannot speak for all, but when they are students, whether attending a class or a workshop for improvement, they learn best by doing! Students expect the teacher to be motivated and passionate about the subject and help them understand the key concepts through an active engaging classroom environment. The environment could include video clips about the subject, models and demonstrations that the student can work with to better understand a concept (Figure 1), and experiments testing concepts and materials. They want to be pulled into the class through questioning and in-class activities. Bottom line, students want to practice in class what they will be doing on homework, exams and in real life. As shown in Figure 1 at the turn of the century at

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Welch, R. (2005, June), Teaching Mechanics 101 Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15264

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: © 2005 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