Shryock, Kristi (2011-05). Alignment of Faculty Expectations and Course Preparation between First-Year Mathematics and Physics Courses and a Statics and Dynamics Course.. Doctoral Dissertation.
Alignment of the expectations of engineering faculty and the preparation engineering students receive in first-year mathematics and physics mechanics courses provided the motivation for the work contained in this study. While a number of different aspects of student preparation including intangibles, such as motivation, time management skills, and study skills, affect their performance in the classroom, the goal of this study was to assess the alignment of the mathematics and physics mechanics knowledge and skills addressed in first-year courses with those needed for a sophomore-level statics and dynamics course. Objectives of this study included: (1) development of a set of metrics for measuring alignment appropriate for an engineering program by adapting and refining common notions of alignment used in K-12 studies; (2) study of the degree of alignment between the first-year mathematics and physics mechanics courses and the follow-on sophomore-level statics and dynamics course; (3) identification of first-year mathematics and physics mechanics skills needed for a sophomore-level statics and dynamics course through the development of mathematics and physics instruments based on the inputs from faculty teaching the statics and dynamics courses; (4) analysis of tasks given to the students (in the form of homework and exam problems) and the identification of the mathematics and physics skills required; (5) comparison of the required skills to the skills reported by faculty members to be necessary for a statics and dynamics course; and (6) the comparison of student preparation in the form of grades and credits received in prerequisite courses to performance in statics and dynamics. Differences were identified between the content/skills developed in first-year mathematics and physics mechanics courses and content/skills expected by engineering faculty members in the sophomore year. Furthermore, skills stated by engineering faculty members as being required were not necessarily utilized in homework and exam problems in a sophomore engineering mechanics course. Finally, success in first-year physics mechanics courses provided a better indicator of success in a sophomore-level statics and dynamics course than that of first-year mathematics. Processes used in the study could be applied to any course where proper alignment of material is desired.