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Work in Progress: Using Conceptual Questions to Assess Class Pre-Work and Enhance Student Engagement in Electromagnetics Learning Studio Modules

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Curricular Innovations 1

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Branislav M. Notaros Colorado State University

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Branislav M. Notaros is Professor and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State University, where he also is Director of Electromagnetics Laboratory. His research publications in computational and applied electromagnetics include more than 180 journal and conference papers. He is the author of textbooks Electromagnetics (2010) and MATLAB-Based Electromagnetics (2013), both with Pearson Prentice Hall, as well as Conceptual Electromagnetics (2016) with CRC Press (in print). He was the recipient of the 1999 IEE Marconi Premium, 2005 IEEE Microwave Prize, IEEE Fellow Award (2016), 2005 UMass Dartmouth Scholar of the Year Award, 2012 Colorado State University System Board of Governors Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, 2012 IEEE Region 5 Outstanding Engineering Educator Award, 2014 Carnegie Foundation and CASE USPOY Colorado Professor of the Year Award, 2015 ASEE ECE Distinguished Educator Award, 2015 IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award, and many other research and teaching/education awards. (for more info, see:

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Ryan McCullough Colorado State University

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Ryan McCullough is a B.S./M.S. student in Electrical Engineering at Colorado State University. He currently has a B.Ed. from the University of Toledo and worked as a teacher for five years before returning to get a degree in electrical engineering in 2014. He is working as a research assistant in both engineering education and MRI RF coil design.

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Pranav S. Athalye Colorado State University

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Pranav S. Athalye is a PhD student at Colorado State University, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He works as a teaching assistant with Dr. Branislav Notaros as the instructor for Electromagnetics courses. His graduate research includes RF coil designing for High and Ultra-High Field MRI.

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Anthony A. Maciejewski Colorado State University

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Anthony A. Maciejewski received the BS, MS, and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from Ohio State University, Columbus in 1982, 1984, and 1987, respectively. From 1988 to 2001, he was a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, West Lafayette. He is currently a professor and head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State University. He is a fellow of IEEE. A complete vita is available at: ~aam.

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This work in progress focuses on the junior year of the Electrical Engineering program, and in particular on one of the two-course sequences constituting the EE core competencies in signals/systems, electronics, and electromagnetics. These three course sequences are also in the focus of an effort charged by the National Science Foundation whose overall goal is to revolutionize engineering education. A team of educators has broken each of the courses into a set of five learning studio modules (LSMs). After LSMs 1-2, 3-4, and 5, respectively, in each of the core competency areas, a knowledge integration (KI) module is conducted to illustrate how LSM concepts from signals/systems, electronics, and electromagnetics can be applied together to solve real-world engineering problems.

This paper presents and discusses innovations in teaching and learning electromagnetics LSMs aimed at increasing the student engagement especially related to class pre-work. Namely, with the new LSM/KI pedagogical structure and substantial portions of class time being devoted to KI sessions, it has become evident that the students must engage very intensely in the assigned pre-work that, in turn, must be carefully thought out and guided, and, most importantly, meaningfully assessed.

To this end, one of the faculty team members has developed a unique and extremely comprehensive collection of Conceptual Questions in electromagnetics, to help students comprehend anchoring concepts in this core competency. These are multiple-choice questions that focus on the core concepts of the material, requiring conceptual reasoning and understanding rather than calculations. Conceptual Questions of this scope and intent are completely new in the electromagnetics area, and in practically all ECE areas. Furthermore, this is one of the most complete and ambitious attempts to use them in science and engineering education overall.

In preparation for each class, students must complete assigned pre-work that includes required reading and a timed, online quiz where they answer a series of carefully designed and chosen Conceptual Questions pertaining to topics in the pre-assigned reading within the current LSM. These brief, interactive formative assessments are both evaluating and enhancing students’ understanding of the core concepts of the reading material. Such gained understanding enables students to actively engage in the subsequent LSM class taught in a flipped (inverted) classroom fashion primarily using realistic examples and problems that strongly reinforce theoretical concepts and facilitate active and problem-based learning including interactive discussion. In addition, each class starts with the discussion of the Conceptual Questions from the pre-work assessment (the online assessment system gives the students feedback on the correctness of their answer instead of giving them the correct answer). The students and the instructor discuss why some (incorrect) answers appeared attractive and seemed right, and ultimately what is (or should be) the reasoning behind the choosing of the one correct answer. To further solidify understanding of the core concepts, similar Conceptual Questions are then given as part of the post-work homework assignment, along with computational problems based on these concepts.

The assessment of this new approach is carried out using the Electromagnetics Concept Inventory (EMCI) and other techniques.

Notaros, B. M., & McCullough, R., & Athalye, P. S., & Maciejewski, A. A. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Using Conceptual Questions to Assess Class Pre-Work and Enhance Student Engagement in Electromagnetics Learning Studio Modules Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29187

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