1 Oregon State University (UNITED STATES)
2 University of Washington (UNITED STATES)
3 California Polytechnic State University (UNITED STATES)
4 University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UNITED STATES)
5 Bucknell University (UNITED STATES)
6 Allan Hancock College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN19 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 8882-8892
ISBN: 978-84-09-12031-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2019.2205
Conference name: 11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2019
Location: Palma, Spain
We present the process for developing content for the Concept Warehouse (CW), a technology-based tool to facilitate concept-based active learning in mechanical engineering. Concept-based active learning has been shown to improve student performance, especially for traditionally underrepresented students, and to increase academic retention of students in STEM programs. The CW was originally constructed for chemical engineering (ChE) and provides three distinct but complementary functions:
(a) a content repository,
(b) an audience response system to deliver content, and
(c) learning analytics that provide data to instructors and researchers.

Content in the form of approximately 3,000 ConcepTests, 10 research-based Concept Inventories, and several Inquiry-Based Activities and Virtual Laboratories are now available for ChE. After ~4 years of existence, over 1,000 faculty members at over 150 institutions across the US and internationally are using it.

High quality content is critical for effective concept-based instruction. While most of the original content in the CW was specific to ChE, the software design is general and there is opportunity to leverage the development work and apply this tool to any STEM discipline. We report on a project to develop high-quality conceptual questions (conceptests) for two core mechanical engineering courses, statics and dynamics. Each course has a Course Lead and a corresponding Course Team consisting of 3-4 individuals. The Project Leaders and the Course Teams met for a two-day workshop to develop a shared understanding of how to construct high-quality questions for mechanical engineering faculty to use in statics and dynamics courses.

One of the seven overarching principles for question-design (Koretsky et al., 2014), is the Emergent Use Principle: The tool should provide versatility in how questions can be deployed in instruction so that instructors can use them in ways that best fit their beliefs and context. Correspondingly, questions should enable faculty to intersperse formative assessment during more traditional lecture, but also enable those who take a question-cycle (Beatty et al., 2006) approach. In this approach, questions become a central tool of instruction and class time is spent around discussion, arguing, and sense-making. Use of the tool can also include having students write justifications to their selected multiple-choice answer, preparing them to engage in discussion. Thus, the questions are inherently tools of learning through engagement and interaction mediated by the instructor.

Consequently, the nature of effective questions for concept-based active learning can be quite different than those used in formal summative assessments (e.g., concept inventories, standardized tests).

Question development by the Teams is facilitated by explicitly identifying three goals:
• Content goal: What disciplinary concept or big idea do we want to illuminate?
• Process goal: How must the students use the concept/big idea? What cognitive skills do we want students to exercise?
• Epistemological goal: What ideas about learning and doing engineering do we wish to reinforce?

We present questions with similar content goals but different process and epistemological goals to illustrate the ways question design and intent of instruction interact.

[1] Beatty, I. D et al. (2006). American journal of physics, 74(1), 31-39.
[2] Koretsky, M.D et al. (2014). Advances in Engineering Education, 4(1).
Active learning, technology, mechanical engineering, conceptests.