At the University of ABCD, a course in Engineering Mechanics -Dynamics is a pre-requisite for future courses in Dynamical Systems, Fluid Dynamics, and Mechanisms and Machines. Therefore, it is imperative for students to develop their conceptual understandings of the course contents. This can aid in their critical thinking abilities. Problem solving is a very important step in this direction and homework problems play a vital role in this regard. However, online solution manuals readily available to students provides a convenient step to complete homework assignments. Several students merely replicate the steps in problem solving from a solution manual without any understanding of the process. This hampers their learning of the topic in hand and has a negative impact on their grades. Taking a cue from studies in educational psychology (and as also reported in the 2012 NAS report “Discipline-Based Educational Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering”), changing problem features and making them more open ended engages students to think critically and improves their learning. Problem features that can be changed may include format of the problem statement, familiarity with problem context, and whether the values are numeric or symbolic. Changing problem features and making them more open ended minimizes the use of solution manual. Such an exercise is currently in progress. Assessment of the progress made has been confined to data based on student performance (scores) in their homework, quiz, and exams. In addition, a questionnaire is being developed and implemented that addresses the development of metacognition skills of the students as the semester progresses. Based on the current student performance data, there has been marginal improvement in their scores. However, the more significant changes that has been observed is in the increased student engagement in lecture discussion and office hours. This is an indication that students are more involved in critical thinking which aids in their learning and less on outside help (such as solution manuals).
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