The Impact of Student Led Tutorials on First Year Students' Learning Outcomes

Date

2019-08-31

Authors

Kadhum, Sohad

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Abstract

ENGR 141 Engineering Mechanics is a first-year course that is common to all of the University of Victoria engineering degree programs. Between 2013 and 2014, the course population grew by ~50% necessitating changes in the methods of assessment; adjustments included introducing multiple choice exam components for the first time and replacing instructor evaluated handwritten assignments with machine graded on-line problems. Over concern that these logistically motivated changes would exacerbate negative trends in student work and study habits and detract from the course’s emphasis on solution procedures and best practices, a pedagogically motivated change was also introduced. The tutorial periods were repurposed to create student driven exploration, analysis and solution of customized mechanics problems lying just beyond the scope of typical coursework. The current report outlines the motivations, implementation details and findings made over the duration of the first offering of the revised course in 2014 and the curriculum evaluation and review in the following years 2015-2019. A close-up observation was made to find out how students retain knowledge developed on midterms and tutorials. This was measured by looking at exam questions that were repeats of questions seen earlier in the year in these two activities. One of the major objectives was to make sure the students gain competency in tackling and solving complex statics problems into their simple constituents, it can generate confidence in best practices, their ability to apply these practices and their ability to attack complex problems. In the UVic Engineering Faculty, it was felt that the work habits acquired in ENGR 141 affect student performance in subsequent years of the program. The change of the curriculum addresses the concern of the sudden growth in the student population and the risk of not addressing more of the learners' need. The student led tutorials, involving presentation of group work and discussions, facilitate the students’ abilities to apply the fundamentals engineering concepts and theories in complex, but practical, applications while also increasing their retention of basic solution processes. The success rates were seen to be higher than the previous years 2008-2013. I observed that the number of failing grades in 2014 was the lowest since 2008, and that there was significant growth in the A+ and B letter grade brackets – approaching and eclipsing, respectively, the maximum number recorded over the previous 5 years. I feel we were able to help students who would otherwise finish in the D to E brackets to improve into the C bracket, and many students to elevate from the B- bracket into the B to B+ range. The work at the ENGR 141 was a good environment to introduce the learners to the skills needed to embark on their engineering journey. Group work, quality of work, confidence, and professional practice were the skills improved through the curriculum changes.

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Keywords

First-year engineering, Student-Led Learning, Mechanics, Statics, Tutorials, Seminars, Student Driven Approach

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