Engineering Mechanics

We investigate student understanding of fundamental concepts in engineering mechanics by means of semi-structured interviews, focussing on the themes of forces and torques, equivalence of force systems as well as modeling of basic mechanical systems. The results of these investigations serve as a starting point for the progression of education in engineering mechanics.

One product of our research is a collection of tutorial worksheets (available in German only). The application of these learning materials was investigated over the course of several years in the project “Effectiveness of interactive engagement teaching and learning methods in mechanics”, using standardised diagnostic test instruments as pre- and post-tests in the introductory mechanics course. The students using the Tutorials showed on average a significantly better understanding of the central concepts of statics. It becomes evident from the graph that students of all pre-test levels achieved on average higher post-test scores in the cohorts using the Tutorials. For details on the results as well as the methods, read Direnga, J., Brose, A., & Kautz, C. (2015), Direnga, J., Timmermann, D., Brose, A., & Kautz, C. (2014) und Direnga, J., Timmermann, D., Kieckhäfer, F., & Kautz, C. (2017) (see publications).

The impact of using the Tutorials on the retention of the conceptual understanding was investigated in the “reTest”-project. The results suggest that there is still an overall gain in understanding statics after the end of the first semester, whether the Tutorials were implemented or not. However, one to six years after the first semester, the largest group of students (the students without personal teaching activity e.g. as a teaching assistant) still exhibit a higher level of conceptual understanding when learning with Tutorials. Students with personal teaching activity were able to compensate for the post-instruction difference, possibly by means of intense interactive engagement with the concepts during their own teaching.

In the short run, the implementation of the Tutorials hence leads to a higher conceptual understanding for all students. In the long run, it depends on personal teaching activity whether the conceptual understanding will end up at a higher or just comparable level when comparing cohorts using Tutorials to those not using them. As the group of teaching assistants is a minority, we conclude that the implementation of the Tutorials has an overall positive effect on the retention of conceptual understanding. For details on the reTest-study, read Direnga, J., Timmermann, D., & Kautz, C. (2018).

Publications on teaching in engineering mechanics