All Active All the Time? What are the Implications of Teaching a Traditional Content-Rich Machine Components/Mechanical Systems Design Course Using Active Learning?
Published in 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, June 26, 2016.
Can be found at https://peer.asee.org/26548.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.18260/p.26548.
This paper examines the use of research-proven Active Learning techniques to transform the teaching of a traditional Machine Components/Mechanical Systems Design class. We know from research in Active learning that use of these methods can often lead to greater conceptual understanding and greater engagement of the students with engineering course materials, yet a common concern among engineering faculty is that the adoption of Active learning techniques will not allow the full breadth and depth of traditional content coverage. In this work, the authors reimagined one of the most content-heavy courses in a traditional Mechanical Engineering curriculum by including many Active Learning teaching and learning techniques. In this practice-based research project, the authors attempted to answer the following questions: 1) Could the students learn the breadth and depth of the content via Active Learning, 2) How do the students value the Active Learning experience as compared to a traditional approach and 3) Is the faculty experience such that it would motivate them to use Active Learning techniques in the future? In order to answer these questions, the course was redesigned to eliminate traditional lecturing and the solving of example problems by the instructor. Instead example problems are placed online to be reviewed by the student at their convenience (an element of the Flipped classroom) thus freeing up class time for various Active Learning experiences including conceptual questions, Think-Pair-Share activities, Ranking tasks, individual and team quizzes, and collaborative problem solving. Project Based Learning (PBL) was used through two large team-based design projects undertaken during a weekly laboratory session. A mixed-methods assessment strategy was employed to evaluate the success of these approaches. Quantitative data was obtained from final exam performance for both conceptual understanding and problem solving competency which was compared directly to the same class taught in a traditional manner. Other quantitative and qualitative data, including student’s attitudes and experiences, was gathered through a post class survey.
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