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S. Suhonen, J. Tiili

Tampere University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
Some of the first year bachelor level engineering students are not used to be active learners. They expect teacher to teach and imagine that they learn by passively listening to the teacher. Physics and engineering education research have developed a plenty of good practices to enhance the students’ learning outcomes.

Following practices were combined together to form new method to study introductory physics:
1. Active engagement
2. Peer education
3. Interactive lecture demonstrations
4. Tutorials
5. Pre-lecture assignments
6. The use of video and multimedia content
7. Measurement tasks in the lectures

To arrange more time for activating tasks during lectures including measurement assignments, routine-like calculations are assisted with video tutorials and network material. In this way there is also more face-to-face time to handle problems, which students have encountered. Small-scale measurement assignments are given to the students between or inside the lectures, even within one day. These include for example measuring basic quantities of motion using data loggers and sensors as well as measurements with simple equipment. The measurements, their analysis and reporting are all completed within one day - instead of traditional lecturing. Students are asked to carry out the measurements and present their results in groups, as well as participate in evaluation of other groups’ results. The teamwork is an important part to help the freshmen to learn to know each other.

Feedback about the new teaching method and the measurement assignments was gathered using questionnaires and interviews. Contrary to our presumption, the students were more enthusiastic about the measurements containing basic concepts and laws of physics rather than those with engineering/technical aspects. Results of the piloted courses show that almost all students (93 %) found the measurements to help them understand the physical phenomena better. The students also reported that theory helped them to complete the measurement assignments. The students found it fruitful to discuss the problems and ideas in groups during peer work. This forced them to rationalize and explain their reasoning to each other and made them more aware of their own reasoning. Most of the students (89 %) told that they were actively participating in the team work and that they helped each other in the team. The measurement tasks also increased the variability of the lectures and kept the students interested in the topic.

The challenges in this teaching method are the need for large amount of measurement equipment, scheduling of the measurement assignments so that all students in the group are able to participate actively and the time it takes. Instructor needs to prepare, schedule and arrange the measurements for large amount of students in addition to normal classroom teaching – together with continuous personal/group feedback about the learning outcomes. Despite the challenges, all the instructors involved were enthusiastic about this method. The students were more active doers than in traditional lecturing. In the open question section of the questionnaire, more than half of the students asked for more measurement assignments – despite the time and effort those tasks demand the students to put in outside classroom.