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Work in Progress: Development and Use of an Active Learning Classroom for a Course on Dynamic Systems

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Engineering Problem-based and Active Learning

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1750.1 - 26.1750.13



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Paper Authors


Tiina M. Komulainen Oslo and Akershus University College

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Tiina M. Komulainen is associate professor in automation at Oslo and Akershus University College in Norway. She earned MSc and DrSc degrees in chemical engineering from Helsinki University of Technology, Finland. Dr. Komulainen has background in industrial process modeling and control. She has worked with dynamic process simulation of large scale industrial oil and gas processes at Kongsberg Oil & Gas Technologies before joining Oslo and Akershus University College. Dr Komulainen has research interests in engineering education research, process simulators and chemical process modeling.

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Christine Lindstrøm Oslo and Akershus University College

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Christine Lindstrøm works as an Associate Professor of Science in the Faculty of Teacher Education at Oslo and Akershus University College in Oslo, Norway, where she teaches physics and science education to pre-service science teachers. She undertook her tertiary studies at the University of Sydney, Australia, from which she has a Bachelor of Science (Honours), Master of Education and PhD in Physics. Christine’s PhD project was in Physics Education Research, where she focused on improving the first year physics course by developing and implementing ‘Link Maps’, as well as synthesising an understanding of physics student learning by integrating a variety of theoretical backgrounds, from neuroscience via cognitive psychology to educational theories. Christine’s current research focuses on improving the science teacher education program at Oslo and Akershus University College, and she has a keen interest in how the brain learns physics. Christine also holds a position as Adjunct Associate Professor of University Pedagogy at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where she teaches short courses on university teaching to PhD students and researchers.

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Tengel Sandtrø Oslo and Akershus University College

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Tengel Sandtrø is currently manager for the Educational Spaces-project at Oslo & Akershus University College. He has worked with eduational technology and distance education since 2002. With a past as both lecturer (Oslo University College) and e-learning editor (Norwegian Medical Association), he has experienced the use and abuse of technology. As a project manager, he has been through the stages from the novelty of VLEs to embedding educational technology in classrooms of today – and tomorrow. He received a MA in Social Anthropology (2000) from Goldsmiths' College, University of London.

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Work in progress: Assessment of active learning methods for control systems educationABSTRACT: Large-scale meta-analyses in physics and STEM education research haveconcluded that active learning increases students learning outcome and decrease drop-outrate (Fraser et al., 2014; Freeman et al., 2014). Our motivation to test active learningmethods in technology-rich environments is the student parliament’s request for moreblended learning in our institution, and the course evaluations from fall 2013, in which thestudents ask for group-focused classroom for exercises, and more teaching resources.Thus, our research questions are: How to implement active learning methods in ourtechnology-rich group room? How much do active learning methods improve students’learning outcomes compared to traditionally taught course? The test course is dynamicsystems, and the test period is fall 2013-fall 2015, with traditional lecturing during fall2013, and with active learning methods during fall 2014 and 2015.The pedagogical underpinning is blended learning. Instructional strategies include aspectsof: peer instruction, cooperative group problem solving, context-rich problems, just-in-time-teaching, and SCALE-UP, (American Association of Physics Teachers, 2014; Mazur,1997; Novak, Patterson, Gavrin, & Christian, 1999). The courses will be assessed with:Control Systems Concept Inventory pre- and post-test (Bristow et al., 2012), five bi-weeklymini-exams with peer-evaluation, teachers activity log (Figure 1), students’ courseevaluations, and a formal final examination. The concept inventory results will becompared to the “Introduction to control systems”-course results reported by Bristow et al.(2012). The results of the formal final exam and the students’ course evaluations (fall 2014)will be compared to the results from fall 2013. The initial results from fall semester 2014will be available before the ASEE draft submission 2.2.2015.The course on dynamic systems corresponds to 10 ECTS, lasts for 14 weeks, and hasenrollment of 50-60 second year electrical engineering students majoring in Automation.Teaching resources comprise one instructor, two teaching assistants (3rd year BSc students),a pedagogical supervisor and a laboratory engineer. The course covers modeling andanalysis of first and second order dynamic systems in time and frequency domain, withapplications in oil and gas industry. The expected course commitment from students is 13hours per week, divided between preparation for classes and pre-class quizes (2-3hours/week), active learning in the classroom (6 hours/week), laboratory exercises (3-4hours every other week), mandatory exercises (3-4 hours every other week).Our technology-rich active learning classroom accommodates 64 students in a room witheight group tables, each with a small screen and web-conference equipment. In addition, theclassroom has five large screens, that can be controlled wirelessly via Airmedia-documentsharing software, and a smart board for the instructor. All the students are responsible forbringing their own laptops or tablets, and to install necessary software prior to semesterstart. The design of the classroom is inspired by SCALE-UP (Gaffney, Richards, Kustusch,Ding, & Beichner, 2008), TEAL (Belcher, Dourmashkin, & Lister, 2014) and ActiveLearning Classrooms (Walker, Brooks, & Baepler, 2011). Following these studies, we presumed that a group-focused room with high flexibility would allow rapid transition between different activities. As illustrated in Figure 1, classes include multiple student-centered activities as well as lecturing and demos by the instructor. A typical session includes a short lecture or demonstration by the instruction, group work on a theoretical task, student presentation in the group using the small screens, group discussion, and further group work. At the end of the 2-4-hour session, one student from each group gives a short plenary presentation of the results using the large screens, and the instructor rounds up the lesson. Hence, the students are activated by inclusion, as group members solving tasks and as presenters for their class. Figure 1: Teachers activity log, cumulated time on different course activities 18.8.-10.10.2014 divided between student-centered activities 1145min, teacher-centered 788min, and technical set-up 15 min.Literature references:American Association of Physics Teachers. (2014). PhysPort - Supporting physics teaching with research-based resources. Retrieved 12.10.2014, from, J., Dourmashkin, P., & Lister, D. (2014). TEAL Technology-Enhanced Active Learning. Retrieved 12.10.2014, from, M., Erkorkmaz, K., Huissoon, J. P., Jeon, S., Owen, W. S., Waslander, S. L., & Stubley, G. D. (2012). A Control Systems Concept Inventory Test Design and Assessment. IEEE Transactions on Education, 55(2), 10. doi: 10.1109/TE.2011.2160946Fraser, J. M., Timan, A. L., Miller, K., Dowd, J. E., Tucker, L., & Mazur1, E. (2014). Teaching and physics education research: bridging the gap. Reports on Progress in Physics, 77(3), 17. doi:10.1088/0034-4885/77/3/032401Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 6. doi:10.1073/pnas.1319030111Gaffney, J. D. H., Richards, E., Kustusch, M. B., Ding, L., & Beichner, R. J. (2008). Scaling Up Education Reform. Journal of college science teaching, 37(5), 18-23.Mazur, E. (1997). Peer Instruction: A User's Manual. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.Novak, G., Patterson, E., Gavrin, A., & Christian, W. (1999). Just-in-Time Teaching: Blending activelearning with web technology. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.Walker, J. D., Brooks, D. C., & Baepler, P. (2011). Pedagogy and Space: Empirical Research on New Learning Environments. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 34(4).

Komulainen, T. M., & Lindstrøm, C., & Sandtrø, T. (2015, June), Work in Progress: Development and Use of an Active Learning Classroom for a Course on Dynamic Systems Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25086

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