A new paradigm in teaching large engineering mechanics courses

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Boylan-Ashraf, Anne (Peggy)
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Steven A. Freeman
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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This study investigated the role of a new paradigm in teaching large introductory fundamental engineering mechanics courses that combines student-centered learning and supplemental student resources. The sample consisted of close to 5000 engineering students from Iowa State University.

Demographic characteristics in the study included students' major, gender, performance in high school, and achievement and aptitude tests scores. Results of the study overwhelmingly showed that not only is there a difference between a class taught passively using the teacher-centered pedagogy and a class taught actively using the student-centered pedagogy, but also that the usage of the variety of student-centered pedagogies in statics of engineering is a significant predictor in student performance in mechanics of materials.

The principal focus of this work was to determine if the new paradigm was successful in improving student understanding of course concepts in statics of engineering. After evaluating the effects of several variables on students' academic success, the results may provide important information for both faculty and researchers and present a convincing argument to those faculty interested in a reform but hesitant to abandon conventional teaching practices. By promoting a new paradigm, the potential for improving understanding of engineering fundamentals on a larger scale may be realized.

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Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2013