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Tutorials And In Class Activity For Improving Student Performance In A First Year Engineering Course

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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

Projects and Problems in First-Year Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1284.1 - 14.1284.12



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Paper Authors


Lisa Benson Clemson University

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Lisa Benson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Bioengineering. Dr. Benson teaches first year engineering, research methods, and graduate engineering education courses. Her research interests include student-centered active learning in undergraduate engineering, assessment of motivation, and how motivation affects student learning. She is also involved in projects that utilize Tablet PCs to enhance student learning. Her education includes a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Vermont, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Bioengineering from Clemson University.

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David Bowman Clemson University

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David R. Bowman is a Lecturer in the General Engineering Program within the Department of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. He is also a Computer Science Ph.D student in the School of Computing at Clemson University. His educational background includes a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Engineering from Clemson University.

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Randolph, Randy Hutchison

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Randolph E. Hutchison is a Ph.D student in the Department of Bioengineering at Clemson University. Prior to starting his doctoral work in August 2008, he earned a B. S. Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech University, and taught high school physics for six years. He implemented an International Baccalaureate physics program and a Project Lead the Way pre-engineering program, and is a National Board Certified teacher. His current research focuses on human motion biomechanics, and the application of biomechanics in high school and undergraduate curricula to teach fundamental concepts in physics and engineering.

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Carol Wade Clemson University

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Carol Wade is a second year Ph.D. student at Clemson University in Mathematics Curriculum
and Instruction. She is a National Board Certified mathematics teacher in the area of Adolescent
Young Adult Mathematics with thirteen years experience in teaching mathematics in a public
high school. Her research area is the disconnect between high school mathematics preparation
and college mathematics expectations for science, engineering, and mathematics majors. Her
research is funded in part through an NSF Research Experience for Teachers program.

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

Tutorials and In-Class Activity for Improving Student Performance in a First Year Engineering Course

Abstract An important factor in student satisfaction and retention in engineering courses is their pre- requisite knowledge. We seek to address the needs of these students who are not calculus-ready upon entering our first year engineering program by introducing self-paced video tutorial modules that deliver background in basic engineering mathematics, and an in-class activity applying those mathematical concepts. We are focusing on logarithms and trigonometric functions, as they are used ubiquitously in engineering, and have been identified as particularly problematic for students in our classes. Because future engineering classes will demand frequent recall of these mathematical concepts, the modules and demonstration focused on tying these concepts to prior knowledge in hopes of reducing cognitive load. The objective of this study is to examine the effects of having first year engineering students use these resources in terms of student performance and their perception of their own learning gains.

We based the design of the resources on social constructivist theory, allowing students to build on what they already know. The video modules on trigonometric functions take students from very basic definitions and relationships to solving equations using these terms. Through an in- class activity using sine functions, students observe real objects in cyclic motion, collect data from them, manipulate the data, interpret it, and make predictions about how related systems will behave. This essentially moves students through the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy from knowledge to synthesis. The experimental design consisted of comparisons between three main groups: 1) controls, 2) those who viewed the tutorials, and 3) those who viewed the tutorials and participated in the in-class activity. Student performance on pre- and post- content tests, and self-assessments of learning gains were compared. We report on results of these assessments, and their implications for affecting change in student success, especially for students with weak pre-requisite skills.

Introduction Students entering our first year engineering course arrive with different levels of mathematics preparation, which is of critical importance to their academic success. In our program, students scoring below a proficiency level on an institution-wide mathematics placement test are enrolled in a first semester course with an additional one-hour session (“recitation”) for content review and practice. However, even with this support, 53% of these students earned a D or F, or withdrew from the course (DFW rate). This is over twice the DFW rate of 20% for all other first year engineering students. The US is one of the few industrialized nations that do not have national mathematics standards1. Seventy-two percent of the states require three or less mathematics courses for a high school diploma, while twenty two percent require four mathematics credits. Consistent across states is

Benson, L., & Bowman, D., & Hutchison, R. R., & Wade, C. (2009, June), Tutorials And In Class Activity For Improving Student Performance In A First Year Engineering Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5349

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