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Using Assessments to Improve Student Outcomes in Engineering Dynamics

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Improving Student Outcomes in Mechanics

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Ahmad Ghasemloonia P.Eng. University of Calgary

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Dr. Ahmad Ghasemloonia received his BSc (Mechanical Engineering) from the University of Tabriz in 2003 and his MSc in Applied Mechanics from Tarbiat Modares University in 2006 with the research focus on vibration condition monitoring and fault diagnosis. Between 2003 and 2009, he served as a Technical Engineer, Quality Control Engineer and Vibration Analysts at Tosseh Sanaat Azarbaijan (TSA), Pars Khazar, SAPCO and MAPNA Group. He received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Memorial University of Newfoundland, graduating with distinction in 2013 with specializing in structural vibrations. Following completion of his PhD, he conducted an Industrial Post-doctoral Fellowship at Subsurface Imaging Technology on the feasibility study of excavating salt caverns in Newfoundland. In 2014, he joined Project neuroArm at the University of Calgary as a Post-doctoral Scholar, where he worked on four biomedical engineering research projects. He lectured as a Sessional Faculty at Memorial University in 2013 and at the University of Calgary in 2015 and 2016 before joining the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Calgary as an Instructor. Dr. Ghasemloonia teaches courses in the areas of applied solid mechanics and mechanical engineering design. Dr. Ghasemloonia is a registered Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) in Alberta.

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Meera N.K. Singh University of Calgary

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Dr. Meera Singh obtained her BSc from the University of Calgary, and her MSc and Ph.D from the University of Waterloo, Canada. Her MSc and PhD research was in the areas of elasticity, fracture mechanics and fatigue life prediction. Following her PhD studies, she joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Manitoba, Canada, where she was a faculty member for 12 years. She then joined the same faculty at the University of Calgary in 2015. As a faculty member, Dr. Singh has conducted research in fracture, fatigue and engineering education and has taught a vast array of undergraduate and graduate courses in applied mechanics. Apart from her academic experience she has worked in numerous industries as an Engineering Consultant. Finally, since the beginning of her career, Dr. Singh has been very active in K-12 outreach and in promoting Women in Science and Engineering. Dr. Singh is a registered Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) in the province of Alberta.

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Engineering Dynamics has historically been one of the most challenging courses in the engineering curriculum. At this institution, Dynamics is taken by approximately 400 students annually and the failure rate has hovered around 15-20% for the past 10 years. This rate has serious implications on program length and student retention. Numerous studies have been conducted that are aimed at improving these common statistics in Dynamics. These studies provide invaluable guidance on improving teaching techniques to address the diverse needs of learners in and outside of the lecture halls. The focal point of this study is on student assessments and their use to promote content mastery in Engineering Dynamics.

Using classroom assessments in highly effective ways to improve student learning is not a new idea. However, they are often used by instructors as tools solely to rank the students rather than for an opportunity to help students learn. Using assessments as sources of information to guide and provide corrective instruction are steps that have been taken at the University of Calgary towards improving student outcomes. To further exploit the ability of assessments to be used to help students learn, the effect of giving students an opportunity to reassess on course outcomes is examined. Although often met with controversy, proponents of second chance exams believe that when done properly, they have a significant positive impact on student learning and retention. This may particularly be the case for engineering dynamics, where students are lost in rigid body dynamics if they have not fully understood the foundational first part of the course, particle dynamics.

Over the past few years, the assessments in Engineering Dynamics have consisted of 8 quizzes, a midterm, and a final exam. Student’s comments on the course evaluations have strongly suggested that quizzes are a great opportunity for them to keep up to date with the course material. Due to the heavy load of almost weekly quizzes, of the 8 quizzes, the two on which the lowest marks were obtained were not considered in the calculation of the student’s final grade. Although this is common practice when multiple quizzes are taken in a course, it does not give students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. This is also true for the case of the midterm, where some students are left with a low mark, and therefore a poor understanding of the foundational material. In order to improve student learning, two significant changes have been implemented in the Fall, 2019 dynamics class. Firstly, students can rewrite any one quiz before the midterm, and any one of the later quizzes before the final exam. Secondly, with constraints, students can rewrite the midterm two weeks after the original date. The details of the assessments, rules and constraints surrounding the reassessments, and a comprehensive evaluation of the effect of the reassessments on student learning outcomes and student experience will be detailed in this work.

Ghasemloonia, A., & Singh, M. N. (2020, June), Using Assessments to Improve Student Outcomes in Engineering Dynamics Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35451

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