Small interventions, big impacts: How modification of delivery process of in-class activities for freshmen can dramatically improve learning

Aly Tawfik, Janis Terpenny, Richard Goff

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This paper discusses the impact of using informed instructional design and subsequent delivery processes of classroom activities on learning outcomes in first-year engineering classes. The paper shows how minor additions or changes done by the instructor can lead to noticeably better learning outcomes, and higher student satisfaction and perception. In this study, learning outcomes are evaluated by the instructor, while students' satisfaction and perception is measured using direct surveys. Four previously tested and two suggested example hands-on activities are discussed in the paper. In addition to the activities, the paper also addresses how instructor delivery of the activities influences learning outcomes in a typical classroom environment. The paper demonstrates the powerful influence of an instructor's teaching style and approach on class behavior and response, and hence, suggests careful and detailed design of the process of instructional delivery. This study was performed on three workshops with average enrollments of 27 students each. While two of the workshops had almost equal gender compositions, with approximately 40% females, the third workshop was an all male workshop. One of the classes was taught on Wednesdays, and the other two were taught on Fridays. During the one-day time gap between the two classes, the instructor made minor adjustments of the delivery process, and then applied these during the Friday class. These adjustments were based on instructor reflections, peer suggestions, and students' feedback. The workshops are the active learning sessions for the "Engineering Exploration" class, which is a core introductory engineering course for all first-year engineering students at Virginia Tech. The study was performed over the fall semester of 2007. Statistical tests and measures show that while the two similar workshops belonged to the same population, with respect to means and standard deviations of the learning outcome measures, they significantly differed with respect to students' satisfaction. Statistical methods for appropriate analysis of data are also reported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2008
Event2008 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Pittsburg, PA, United States
Duration: Jun 22 2008Jun 24 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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