Does the Use of Cumulative and Practice Tests Further Improve a Blended STEM Classroom?

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The first author has been teaching a junior-level Mechanical Engineering Numerical Methods course since 1987 and formally so in a blended modality since 2002. The recent blended class (control group-Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017) used approximately one-third of the class time for active learning activities such as think-pair-share exercises administered using clickers, in-class procedural exercises, and outlining of programming projects and applied exercises. Most of these exercises was collected for a grade in the class. Some applied exercises though were taken home by students and graded after submission, as were the completed programming projects. Because the active learning activities displaced the coverage of some content, students were assigned online digital audiovisual lectures and textbook readings for the rest of the content on a topic. To ensure students had gained an initial understanding of the whole topic, automatically graded online quizzes with no more than three questions were assigned. The final examination average score of 54% for the traditional class improved to 62% for the blended class (d=0.8; p<=0.008).

Can we improve the blended class even further by using other evidence-based learning strategies not used so far in the classroom, or would there be a limited effect of these interventions? Would having cumulative tests (forces distributed and interleaved practice) and giving practice tests (mean effect size=0.74 in a metastudy) further increase the cognitive student learning gains? How would it affect the current classroom environment?

The students in the Fall 2019 semester form the experimental group. Data will be available for analysis at the end of the semester, and we will have complete results for the draft paper. To compare cognitive learning, we will use a final examination that has multiple-choice (lower level thinking) and free-response (higher-level thinking) questions. To compare the classroom environment, we will use the well established, validated and reliable College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI). This inventory measures seven psychosocial dimensions of the classroom environment including personalization, involvement, task orientation, and individualization. The current paper adds to extensive published knowledge on the blended and flipped classrooms for numerical methods by the authors.

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access