Asee peer logo

Using Online and Hands-on Activities to Improve Self-efficacy in Mechanics

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Statics Online

Tagged Division


Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1672.1 - 26.1672.21



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Peggy C. Boylan-Ashraf Stanford University

visit author page

Dr. Peggy C. Boylan-Ashraf is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Designing Education Lab at Stanford University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of solid mechanics and engineering education, particularly in the areas of a new paradigm in teaching introductory, fundamental engineering mechanics courses (statics, mechanics of materials, and dynamics).

visit author page


Sarah L. Billington Stanford University

visit author page

Sarah L. Billington is Professor of Structural Engineering and Associate Chair of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. She teaches undergraduate introductory solid mechanics as well as graduate courses on structural materials as well as design with structural concrete. Her research group focuses on sustainable, durable construction materials and their application to buildings and infrastructure. She also conducts engineering education research with a focus on the impact of online activities on mechanics self-efficacy.

visit author page

author page

Sheri Sheppard Stanford University

Download Paper |


Mechanics self-efficacy and why it matters? Introductory mechanics courses have far too long been focused on intensemathematical and theoretical concepts, and traditionally these courses have been shownto be biased toward instructor engagement versus student engagement. Numerous studieshave reported that, more often than not, this bias creates a gap between instructors’teaching styles versus students’ learning styles. Despite this apparent discrepancy, manyintroductory mechanics courses are still taught passively focusing on note-taking, whichis believed to play a role in the contribution of students’ self-efficacy to persist in theirengineering studies as well as in their engineering career choices. Self-efficacy, which is a person’s belief in his/her own ability, has been shown tobe highly correlated with an individual’s performance level. With high self-efficacy, astudent will use more cognitive resources and more effective metacognitive strategies, inaddition to being more likely to select challenging tasks due to his/her self-confidence.Upon encountering a problem, an individual with higher self-efficacy is often willing toput in additional effort and is more persistent in problem solving than a student withlower self-efficacy. This paper presents an innovative pedagogical approach to teaching anintroductory mechanics course, which includes weekly lectures, in-class activities, andhands-on laboratory exercises. The authors also address the impact of web-basedactivities on students’ mechanics-concepts self-efficacy and performance. The web-based activities focus on constructing free-body diagrams. Data from three offerings ofthe course encompassing use of online activities, effectiveness of active learning, anddimensions of self-efficacy over time will be shown in the final paper. Factors, such asgender and year in school associated with students’ persistence and a sense of belongingin engineering will also be explored.  

Boylan-Ashraf, P. C., & Billington, S. L., & Sheppard, S. (2015, June), Using Online and Hands-on Activities to Improve Self-efficacy in Mechanics Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25008

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: © 2015 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