Can Students Flourish in Engineering Classrooms?

  • Peggy C. Boylan-Ashraf San Jose State University
  • Steven A. Freeman Iowa State University
  • Mack C. Shelley Iowa State University
  • Özgür Keleş San Jose State University
Keywords: Engineering, Active Learning


This study investigated the role of a new paradigm in teaching large introductory, fundamental engineering mechanics (IFEM) courses that combined student-centered learning pedagogies and supplemental learning resources. Demographic characteristics in this study included a total of 405 students, of whom 347 (85.7%) are males and 58 are (14.3%) females. The students’ majors included aerospace engineering, agricultural engineering, civil engineering, construction engineering, industrial engineering, materials engineering, and mechanical engineering. Results of this study, as tested using an independent samples t-test, validated using a nonparametric independent samples test, and a general linear multivariate model analysis, indicated overwhelmingly that there is a difference between a class taught passively using the teacher-centered pedagogy and a class taught actively using student-centered pedagogy. 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 using student-centered pedagogies in large classes. After evaluating the effects of several variables on students’ academic success, the results may provide important information for both faculty members and researchers and present a convincing argument to faculty members interested in academic 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.

Author Biography

Peggy C. Boylan-Ashraf, San Jose State University
Peggy C. Boylan-Ashraf is an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering at San Jose State University. She directs the structures lab and researches on new paradigms in teaching introductory solid mechanics courses with an emphasis on large enrollments. Over her years of teaching, Dr. Boylan-Ashraf has taught over 6,500 students and has been awarded numerous teaching awards by her students, department, and college.