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The Role of Timely Actionable Student Feedback in Improving Instruction and Student Learning in Engineering Courses

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Grading and Feedback Models in Mechanics

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Paper Authors


Petros Sideris Texas A&M University

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Dr. Sideris is an Assistant Professor at the Zachry Department of Civil and Environment Engineering at Texas A&M University, since 2017. Prior to joining Texas A&M, Dr. Sideris was an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he also served as the Director of the Structures and Materials Testing Laboratory. He received his Master's (2008) and Ph.D. (2012) in Civil Engineering from the University at Buffalo – SUNY. He also holds a diploma in Civil Engineering (2005) from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. Prior to joining the University of Colorado at Boulder, Dr. Sideris was appointed as Post-doctoral Research Fellow and Adjunct Lecturer at the University at Buffalo - SUNY (September 2012 - May 2013). Dr. Sideris has taught courses in statics, mechanics of materials, structural dynamics, applied mathematics and numerical methods, reinforced concrete design, and experimental methods. His research primarily focuses on the areas of Resilient and Sustainable Structures and Computational Mechanics for Damage, Softening and Structural Collapse. Dr. Sideris is an Associate Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and serves in the ASCE/SEI Seismic Effects Committee and the ASCE/EMI Computational Mechanics Committee. He is also a Young Affiliate Member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies, and serves as a member of the TRB's AFF-50 Standing Committee on Seismic Design and Performance of Bridges. Dr. Sideris is also an ExCEEd fellow since the summer of 2017.

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Maria Koliou Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Koliou is an Assistant Professor at the Zachry Department of Civil and Environment Engineering at Texas A&M University. She joined the department after having been a Post-doctoral Fellow at the NIST-funded Center of Excellence for Risk-based Community Resilience Planning at Colorado State University. She received her Diploma (2008) in Civil Engineering from the University of Patras, Greece, while she holds Master’s (2010) and PhD (2014) degrees from the University at Buffalo – SUNY. Her research interests span the fields of structural dynamics, earthquake engineering, and multi-hazard performance-based design for system functionality and community resilience. Through these areas, her research focuses on developing novel sustainable structural designs and systems against natural and man-made hazards and formulating fundamental mathematical frameworks to assess system functionality and community resilience. Dr. Koliou is an Associate Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and serves in technical committees including the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) Design of Wood Structures Committee, the SEI Disaster Resilience of Structures, Infrastructure & Communities Committee and the Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI) Objective Resilience Committee. Dr. Koliou also served as the co-chair of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s (EERI) Younger Members committee during 2017-2019. She received the 2018 Structural Engineering Institute’s Young Professional Scholarship. Dr. Koliou has taught courses in Engineering Mechanics: Dynamics, Structural Steel Design, Engineering Risk Analysis and Concrete Design. She is also an ExCEEd fellow since summer 2019 which further attests to her devotions to teaching and education.

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Traditional course instruction has students on the receiving end, giving them limited opportunity to contribute to their learning environment, and improve their learning experiences. The most common, and often only, form of course-level student feedback typically used in most universities is an end-of-semester survey, which has no influence on the current course, and provides a slow path to improvement. This study presents a student-centered assessment model that provides timely actionable feedback allowing optimization of course instruction during the semester with the objective of maximizing student learning and the overall student satisfaction. The proposed model uses a simple structured approach that incorporates questions requiring numerical scores and open-ended questions to solicit student feedback.

This model includes four surveys administered over the semester. The first survey is given on the first week of classes to familiarize the instructor with the background and career goals of each student and their course expectations. Based on the findings of this survey, the instructor can adjust or clarify aspects of the learning objectives, help students strategize their studying based on their individual background, and plan, early on, a “fine tuning” of the course schedule to add needed or remove obsolete material. The second and third surveys are anonymous and give the students the opportunity to assess various aspects of the course and their learning experiences. Each survey is separated into three sections. The Course section focuses on assessing the course structure, including the course organization, teaching tools, instructor’s lecture notes, textbooks, and homework. The Instructor section focuses on assessing the instructor’s overall support of the course, including their teaching skills, responsiveness to questions, learning environment, and academic concern. The TA section includes an overall rating for the teaching assistant (TA). At the end of each section, a “Comments/Suggestions” box is included, where the students are encouraged to write their comments. These surveys are administered typically at 1/3 (Week 5) and 2/3 (Week 10) of the semester.

Based on the findings of each survey, the instructor makes a brief presentation during class, where the most frequent comments/issues are discussed along with actions to address them. The third survey further serves as a measure of the efficiency of the adopted actions from the second survey. The fourth survey is administered by the university typically during Week 14 of the semester and serves as a final assessment provided by an independent entity. This assessment model has been applied by the authors in two universities for the undergraduate courses of Statics, Engineering Mechanics: Dynamics, Structural Concrete Design and Computer Applications in Engineering and Construction, and the graduate courses of Advanced Mechanics of Materials, Structural Dynamics and Engineering Risk Analysis. The findings of this study show that timely actionable feedback is essential in improving student learning and satisfaction within the semester, and helps increasing engagement and excitement for a course, because the students realize that their opinion matters and can shape the structure of a course to their benefit. Statistical analyses of the surveys are presented and the sample surveys are provided as an assessment tool to potentially be adopted by other educators in engineering courses.

Sideris, P., & Koliou, M. (2020, June), The Role of Timely Actionable Student Feedback in Improving Instruction and Student Learning in Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35368

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