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Title: Hands-On Statics to Improve Conceptual Understanding and Representational Competence
Mechanics instructors frequently employ hands-on learning with goals such as demonstrating physical phenomena, aiding visualization, addressing misconceptions, exposing students to “real-world” problems, and promoting an engaging classroom environment. This paper presents results from a study exploring the importance of the “hands-on” aspect of a hands-on modeling curriculum we have been developing that spans several topics in statics. The curriculum integrates deep conceptual exploration with analysis procedure tutorials and aims to scaffold students’ development of representational competence, the ability to use multiple representations of a concept as appropriate for learning, problem solving, and communication. We conducted this study over two subsequent terms in an online statics course taught in the context of remote learning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The intervention section used a take-home adaptation of the original classroom curriculum. This adaptation consisted of eight activity worksheets with a supplied kit of manipulatives and model-building supplies students could use to construct and explore concrete representations of figures and diagrams used in the worksheets. In contrast, the control section used activity worksheets nearly identical to those used in the hands-on curriculum, but without the associated modeling parts kit. We only made minor revisions to the worksheets to remove reference to the models. The control and intervention sections were otherwise identical in how they were taught by the same instructor. We compare learning outcomes between the two sections as measured via pre-post administration of a test of 3D vector concepts and representations called the Test of Representational Competence with Vectors (TRCV). We also compare end of course scores on the Concept Assessment Test in Statics (CATS) and final exam scores. In addition, we analyze student responses on two “multiple choice plus explain” concept questions paired with each of five activities covering the topics of 3D moments, 3D particle equilibrium, rigid body equilibrium (2D and 3D), and frame analysis (2D). The mean pre/post gain across all ten questions was higher for the intervention section, with the largest differences observed on questions relating to 3D rigid body equilibrium. Students in the intervention section also made larger gains on the TRCV and scored better on the final exam compared to the control section, but these results are not statistically significant perhaps due to the small study population. There were no appreciable differences in end-of-course CATS scores. We also present student feedback on the activity worksheets that was slightly more positive for the versions with the models.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1834425
NSF-PAR ID:
10380813
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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