This study, which is funded by NSF’s DUE:EHR program, documents the use of inertial measurement units (IMUs) as an engaged learning exercise (called i-Newton) in an otherwise traditionally taught introductory dynamics course. The vast majority of dynamics courses do not include opportunities for hands-on investigations of the engineering dynamics derived and studied in class, and this exercise represents an intervention to a teaching pedagogy that historically only passively engages students in their learning of dynamics concepts.
There is ample evidence showing that students who see difficult theoretical concepts in action and engage in hands-on learning of those concepts are more likely to understand the abstract nature of the movements. Thus, integrating hands on investigations into the introductory dynamics course is likely to improve student learning. However, as the course is often a required prerequisite for multiple upper level classes and, as a result, typically has quite large enrollments, a traditional hands-on laboratory can be difficult to implement Given the ease with which IMUs yield motion data (kinematic data), they provide a scalable, ready-made platform to explore and learn engineering dynamics. We hypothesize that using IMU-based, hands-on experiments in the engineering dynamics course will increase conceptual understanding, engineering self-efficacy, and intention to persist.
The study is conducted in the context of an undergraduate introductory dynamics course required by several different engineering disciplines at a large public university. We systematically incorporate the IMU-based experiments into the class at three levels: 1) demonstrations, 2) prescribed experiments, and 3) student projects. The Dynamics Concept Inventory, a validated instrument covering 14 commonly misunderstood and/or important engineering dynamics concepts, is used to measure changes in conceptual understanding. Another validated instrument, the Longitudinal Assessment of Engineering Self-Efficacy (LAESE), is used to measure changes in engineering self-efficacy, course-specific self-efficacy, and intention to persist. The DCI and LAESE are administered online at the beginning and end of the term for modest extra credit.
To date, we have collected control data from 151 students across 3 sections in 1 semester with no IMU-based experiments. We have also completed the first level of our study (362 students across 7 sections in 2 semesters) in which instructors conducted two demonstrations relating to commonly misunderstood DCI concepts and students completing assignments exploring those concepts using data provided by IMUs. The second level of our study (prescribed experiments the students conduct outside of class with IMUs supplied to them) will be complete at the end of December 2018. And level 3 (student projects) will be implemented during Spring term of 2019. Preliminary DCI results show that Level 1 and Level 2 have limited impact on student conceptual understanding as compared to the control group. Preliminary LAESE results are inconclusive regarding self-efficacy and intention to persist as compared to the control group. This update will compare the results of this first and second levels of the study against the control data.
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