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Type: Conference paper
Title: Understanding the first year experience of engineering students
Author: Willis, C.
Palmer, E.
Citation: The Education Research Group of Adelaide (ERGA) conference 2010: The Changing Face of Education, 24-25 September, 2010; pp. 88-89.
Publisher: University of Adelaide
Publisher Place: online
Issue Date: 2010
Conference Name: ERGA Conference (5th : 2010 : Adelaide, Australia)
Department: Centre for Learning and Professional Development
Statement of
Craig Willis and Edward Palmer
Abstract: The issue of transition difficulties for Level I students (Falkner & Munro 2009) is a challenge for students and academics alike. Also, teaching large class sizes often presents difficulty in engaging student interest and facilitating interaction (AUTC 2002, 2003; Iaria & Hubball, 2008). To develop a greater understanding of the first year experience from a student perspective, a study was conducted for the Level I course ‘Engineering Mechanics: Statics’, with approximately 550 students. Developing the key attributes of problem solving and independent thinking were key components of the course. The teaching format was lectures supported by problem solving tutorials. To improve student understanding and promote active engagement in lectures, ‘crash courses’ (Willis 2009a; b) were used as a teaching strategy. The assessment tasks included formative and summative questions that promote the problem solving and self-checking strategies essential in engineering. A multiple choice format was required due to the large class size and encourages accuracy and efficiency. A survey in weeks 6 and 12 of the 12-week course examined student attitudes. Results (broad agreement in brackets) indicated that several responses remained relatively consistent over time. However, questions 2, 3 and 6 demonstrated marked changes (increases of 16, 30 and 32%, respectively). 1. Overall, I am happy with my progress in this course so far (71, 81%). 2. The assessment tasks provide me with a good understanding of my problem solving abilities (74, 90%). 3. I receive adequate feedback on my work (51, 81%). 4. The assessment tasks improve my problem solving abilities (78, 87%). 5. I find that reflection on my learning is beneficial to me (81, 85%). 6. The recorded lectures have assisted me in my learning (40, 72%). 7. The crash courses help to improve my understanding of the lecture material (94, 98%). Over time, as the number of assessment tasks increased, more opportunities for feedback were presented, which increased the perception of adequate feedback. In addition, lectures incorporated problem solving exercises in an interactive workshop environment, which provided students with immediate feedback on their performance and expectations. The recorded lectures formed part of a support network for learning (with tutorials) where students reviewed material as part of the scaffolding curriculum. The most positive response regarded the use of crash courses (question 7), which was also reflected in a qualitative response indicating that this teaching strategy was ‘the best aspect of the course’. Qualitative responses also addressed the ‘reflecting activities done to support learning’ and ‘time spent outside of lectures and tutorials’. The University expects students to study 8 hours per week per course outside of lectures and tutorials, which was not reflected by actual student practice. Although the amount of time should be dependent on the individual, there is a need to explicitly educate students on the need for independent learning and responsibility. Also, effective formative assessment and pre-lecture engagement were beneficial in providing timely feedback and improving student understanding.
Rights: Copyright © 2010 The University of Adelaide
RMID: 0020104690
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Appears in Collections:Civil and Environmental Engineering publications

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