A National Need: Improved Student Outcomes
Increasing engineering retention, particularly in core disciplinary classes is a key national concern. Empirical studies indicate that Active learning structures, Blended learning models, and Collaborative learning opportunities (ABC) can enhance achievement and retention in undergraduate STEM. Unfortunately, to date, efforts to employ ABC tools have been largely limited to first year introductory and gateway courses in undergraduate STEM, neglecting deep core classes in the middle two years of study, which are major sources of stopout and underperformance.

 

To address this gap, this NSF-funded project studies Purdue’s Mechanics Freeform Classroom (Freeform), a pedagogical framework that fully merges ABC tools and has shown remarkable success in improving pass rates for a core sophomore/junior mechanical engineering course. Freeform was created by Dr. Chuck Krousgrill and Dr. Jeffrey Rhoads of Purdue University with the purpose of providing students with a more engaging, interactive, and comprehensible Mechanics classroom. More specifically, the goals of the Freeform project include:

  1. assess student learning and engagement when we use active, blended, and collaborative learning strategies
  2. evaluate how characteristics of the instructor and institution influence student outcomes in the Freeform environment
  3. observe and examine the classroom intervention in comparison to the students and faculty in other classes