Scaffolding in Introductory Engineering Courses

Peggy C. Boylan-Ashraf, San Jose State University
Steven A. Freeman, Iowa State University
Mack C. Shelley II, Iowa State University

This article is published as Peggy Boylan-Ashraf, Steven A. Freeman, and Mack C. Shelley, “Scaffolding in Introductory Engineering Courses,” Journal of STEM Education, 17(1), 6-12 (2015). Posted with permission

Abstract

In the past ten years, engineering classrooms have seen an exponential growth in the use of technology, more than during any other previous decade. Unprecedented advancements, such as the advent of innovative gadgets and fundamental instructional alterations in engineering classrooms, have introduced changes in both teaching and learning. Student learning in introductory, fundamental engineering mechanics (IFEM) courses, such as statics of engineering, mechanics of materials, dynamics, and mechanics of fluids, as in any other class, is influenced by the experiences students go through in the classroom. Thus, bold new methodologies that connect science to life using student-centered approaches and scaffolding pedagogies need to be emphasized more in the learning process. This study is aimed to gain insight into the role of studentcentered teaching, particularly the implementation of scaffolding pedagogies into IFEM courses. This study also attempts to contribute to the current national conversation in engineering education of the need to change its landscape—from passive learning to active learning. Demographic characteristics in this study included a total of 3,592 students, of whom 3,160 (88.0%) are males and 432 (12.0%) are females, over a period of six years, from 2007 to 2013. The students’ majors included aerospace engineering, agricultural engineering, civil engineering, construction engineering, industrial engineering, materials engineering, and mechanical engineering. Results of the study, as tested using a general linear univariate model analysis, indicated that overwhelmingly the type of class in statics of engineering is a significant predictor of student “downstream” performance in tests measuring their knowledge of mechanics of materials. There is a statistically significant difference in students’ performance in mechanics of materials depending on whether they were taught passively using the teachercentered pedagogy or taught actively using the studentcentered pedagogy in statics of engineering. Mechanics of materials is commonly the next immediate course, or a downstream course, following statics of engineering.