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Which Comes First: Theory or Experiment?

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Assessment Methods and Learning Pedagogy II

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1686.1 - 22.1686.12



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Paper Authors


Jyhwen Wang Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Jyhwen Wang joined the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University in 2001 after working 10 years as a researcher and R&D manager in steel industry. He teaches mechanical design applications and his research interest is in the areas of mechanical design and material processing technology. He received his Ph. D. degree in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University.

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Alex Fang Texas A&M University

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Dr. Alex Fang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and
Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University. He received the B.S. degree in aerospace
engineering (1976) from Tamkang University in Taiwan, the M.S. degree in aerospace engineering
(1987) and the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering (1996) from Texas A&M University. He joined the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology faculty at Texas A&M in
2007. He teaches courses in the area of nondestructive testing (NDT), nonmetallic materials, and strength of materials. Dr Fang’s research interests are in the areas of ceramic grinding, lapping, and polishing, NDT, acoustics, genetic algorithm, and multi-objective optimization.

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Michael Ryan Golla Texas A&M University

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Which comes first – theory of experiment?The positive effects of laboratory exercise on engineering education are well recognized.To enhance student learning, many engineering technology courses include laboratoryexperiments. Traditionally, students are introduced to the knowledge and/or the theoriesfirst. The lectures are then followed by laboratory sessions. However, it is hypothesizedthat the timing of the laboratory sessions with respect to that of the lectures mayinfluence student learning. In a reverse sequence, giving students opportunities toconduct experiments before presenting the knowledge or theories may improve or impedelearning.This paper presents an effort in investigating the effects of lecture-laboratory timing onstudent learning for engineering technology students. In a Fluid Power Technologycourse, a group of students were taught in the traditional “theory first” approach. Anothergroup of students were assigned to conduct experiments before attending the lecture (the“experiment first” approach). It was found that there is no significant difference instudent performance between the two groups. The same arrangement was made in aStrength of Materials course. In addition to the regular assessment, surveys wereconducted to inquire students’ character and learning style. Preliminary results showedthat, depending on the student’s character and learning style, student learning could beaffected by the “theory first” or “experiment first” teaching approach.

Wang, J., & Fang, A., & Golla, M. R. (2011, June), Which Comes First: Theory or Experiment? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18660

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