Asee peer logo

Using Concept Oriented Example Problems To Improve Student Performance In A Traditional Dynamics Course

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Improving Mechanics Courses

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1541.1 - 12.1541.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Timothy Mays The Citadel

author page

Kevin Bower The Citadel

author page

Kyle Settle The Citadel

author page

Blake Mitchell The Citadel

Download Paper |

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

Using Concept Oriented Example Problems to Improve Student Performance in a Traditional Dynamics Course


Three years of assessment of student performance in CIVL 301 (Engineering Mechanics: Dynamics) has indicated that students are missing many key concepts that are required to develop and solve engineering problems involving course material. Subjective faculty assessment results in 2004 (based on two exams with three long problems each) indicated that students were unprepared to solve multi-step dynamics problems, because most could not appropriately setup the problems as a result of a lack of understanding of key concepts covered in dynamics. In response to this concern, the professor changed the exam format in 2005 to 43 multiple choice questions that assess the students’ understanding of “key concepts”. Nationally recognized concept inventories were also used to assess student performance and to determine if the subjective assessment conclusion was indeed correct. Both objective assessment instruments indicated clearly that students at The Citadel are not learning many of the key concepts needed to solve engineering problems and that the problem may be a direct result of the presentation format used by the course instructor (traditional lectures with long problems only) and the similar presentation format used by the course textbook. A hypothesis was developed in 2005 that student performance may improve if the course material is presented in more of a “concept oriented” format with short (1 to 2 line) example problems that illustrate this material. Hence, in 2006 the author elected to modify the conclusion of each chapter’s material presentation by presenting short concept only problems to improve student understanding of the key subject material. No other changes to the course material or presentation format were made in 2006. The objective exams show a marked improvement in student understanding of course material that appears to be a direct result of the conclusion problems illustrating key concepts. This paper presents the evolution of assessment used in CIVL 301, example problems illustrating key concepts of dynamics, and the quantified student performance improvement in 2006 relative to previous years.


The use of concept inventory exams to assess student knowledge of key course material and effectiveness of faculty instruction is not new. The work of Halloun and Hestenes1,2 performed in the mid 1980s has formed the basis for most modern research in this area. The research team1,2,3,4 developed a concept inventory for physics that was based on a conceptual understanding of the key concepts covered in the course. The key difference between the concept inventory exam developed by the team and typical course exams used by physics instructors is that the concept inventory exam used “word problems” that examined the students intuitive understanding of the material and did not require mathematical calculations to reach the conclusions. Based on these efforts modern research teams under the umbrella Foundation

Mays, T., & Bower, K., & Settle, K., & Mitchell, B. (2007, June), Using Concept Oriented Example Problems To Improve Student Performance In A Traditional Dynamics Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1687

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: © 2007 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