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The Impact of Cambridge Supervisions on Student Performance in a Dynamics 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


Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1540.1 - 26.1540.17



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Paper Authors

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Jeremiah J. Neubert University of North Dakota


Joel Kevin Ness University of North Dakota

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Joel K. Ness, Ph.D., Professor of Engineering and Director of Undergraduate Experience
365 M Upson II
College of Engineering and Mines
Box 8155
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND 58202

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The Impact of Cambridge Supervisions on Student Performance in a Dynamics CourseAbstractOne of the most effective methods for teaching nearly any engineering course is to have studentsapply their knowledge to solve problems. This has led to instructors creating incentives toencourage problem solving outside of the classroom. These incentives nearly always involverewarding students with points towards their final grade. While a variety of techniques forrewarding student efforts have been employed, traditionally this has involved assigningproblems, collecting student work, and grading the work based on its “correctness”. There are avariety of problems with this technique including the time students wait for feedback, the limitedamount of feedback provided on assignments (typically a few short written comments), and theinability to discuss the feedback provided. This method also encourages students to avoid risksbecause wrong answers in their solution may adversely affect their grade. Essentially, it rewardscopying solutions from other students or solution manuals rather than understanding.The objective of this work was to determine if the Cambridge model of supervision and itsemphasis on student understanding was able to improve attainment of educational objectives bystudents in a dynamics class. Cambridge supervisions involve small groups of students meetingwith a mentor for an hour each week outside of class time. In our implementation the mentorwas a junior or senior level engineering student. By placing students in groups of four the costwas limited to that of hiring a grader. During the supervisions mentors asked each student in thegroup to present a portion of their solution. When a student’s solution differed from that of theothers the mentor would facilitate a discussion on the differences. During the discussion thementors would stress important points and provide guidance when the group struggled to identifythe correct solution. The amount of credit a student received for an assignment was based ontheir preparedness and participation in the discussion. Incorrect solutions may receive full creditif the student is prepared to explain to their approach. Conversely, a student that was unable toexplain the steps they took to arrive at the correct solution received no points. The objective wasto reward understanding and not correctness. Student performance in the class that usedCambridge supervision was compared to a control group. The data showed that supervisionsignificantly decreased the number or students failing or withdrawing from the course. Inaddition, student attainment in both classes was measured using an identical set of exams. Theresults of the exam showed that students in the class that used Cambridge supervisions did abetter job of obtaining the course’s educational objectives.

Neubert, J. J., & Ness, J. K. (2015, June), The Impact of Cambridge Supervisions on Student Performance in a Dynamics Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24877

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