Asee peer logo

The Use And Development Of Evidence Based Systems For Improving Learning In Engineering Classes

Download Paper |


2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Student Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1260.1 - 14.1260.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Jay Martin University of Wisconsin, Madison

author page

John Mitchell University of Wisconsin, Madison

author page

Jennifer Welter Wiley

author page

Sandra Courter University of Wisconsin, Madison

Download Paper |

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

The Development and Use of Evidence-Based Systems for Improving Learning in Engineering Classes


We are interested in using student learning measured via direct assessment as a means of providing evidence for improving learning. This includes enhancing learning both through improvements in instruction and through increased and directed student participation in the learning process.

We are part of the group of developers of concept inventories, in our case, in the thermal sciences. In past work, we have used the results of concept inventory assessment in a variety of ways 1-4. There were several key findings from our initial studies using the concept inventories: First, there appears to be enormous potential using inventory-type questions to provide measures of student learning. Second, because the results provide a direct measure of student learning, it is a logical progression to next ask how student learning might be improved. Third, the results on the inventory as a whole and on specific topics are a natural means to inform both the instructor and student about where learning is satisfactory, and where additional focus is needed. Finally, we also found that there are many challenges to using a single concept inventory to assess student understanding in a given class or course. The most important challenge arises because of the practical limit on the number of questions in a given inventory. This limits the number of questions for any specific topic, which means that it may be impossible to accurately assess student understanding for all topics in a typical engineering course using a single inventory assessment.

As a result of this past work, we have been engaged in the development of a more comprehensive system for assessment of student learning. Similar to the concept inventories, individual multiple-choice items are the basic components of an on- line assessment system. In contrast to the concept inventories, the system we are developing involves a large number of questions or items (minimum 500 questions per course). Because of the large number of items or questions that have been developed, we can assess student learning at the topic level. The large number of items limits the incentive for students to attempt to memorize specific questions, and in addition, minimizes the possibility that the instructor would “teach to the test.” Finally, because of the number of questions, there is a great deal of flexibility in how the assessment is used. For example, it is possible to provide students with the opportunity to assess their own learning, independent of the instructor.

In the following, we preface discussion of the system with particulars of how we have used concept inventories and what we have learned about assessment from these experiences. Next we will provide details on this system. Finally, we will

Martin, J., & Mitchell, J., & Welter, J., & Courter, S. (2009, June), The Use And Development Of Evidence Based Systems For Improving Learning In Engineering Classes Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5523

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: © 2009 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