The variation of nontraditional teaching methods across 17 undergraduate engineering classrooms

Kevin A. Nguyen, Robert Matthew Demonbrun, Maura Borrego, Michael J. Prince, Jenefer Husman, Cynthia J. Finelli, Prateek Shekhar, Charles Henderson, Cindy Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This research paper aims to explore the variation of nontraditional teaching methods (such as inductive teaching methods, active learning, pedagogies of engagement, and research based instructional strategies) in engineering classes in the United States. Numerous articles have demonstrated the effectiveness of nontraditional teaching methods in STEM classrooms, and the adoption of such methods has increased across the nation. But, more work needs to be done to explore how instructors are implementing nontraditional teaching methods. In this research study, we collected data from 17 diverse engineering classrooms across the nation and ask two research questions: (1) What are the perceived predominant types of instruction in undergraduate engineering classrooms that feature nontraditional teaching methods? (2) Is there a statistically significant difference in the perceived amount of traditional lecturing in undergraduate engineering classrooms that feature nontraditional teaching methods? In our study, we recruited faculty teaching undergraduate engineering courses who employed nontraditional teaching methods and invited all students to complete the Student Response to Instructional Practices Survey (StRIP). Nontraditional teaching methods on the StRIP Survey included items such as individual and group problem solving, previewing concepts and material before class, and discussing questions in class. The StRIP Survey also included traditional teaching methods such as listening to the instructor lecture during class or watching the instructor solve problems. In total, our study collected data from 17 engineering classes, and 997 students during the 2015-16 academic year. To answer our first question, we used descriptive statistics of nontraditional teaching methods displayed in a graphical representation. To answer the second question, we conducted a Kruskal-Wallis H test to test for a statistically significant difference between classes. Even though all classes were sampled for their nontraditional teaching methods, many still incorporated traditional teaching methods alongside their nontraditional teaching methods. Traditional teaching methods such as passive lecture were the most frequently used teaching approach in 10 of the 17 classes. However, alluding to our second research question, there was a statistically significant difference in students' perception of passive lecture based by course, Kruskal-Wallis χ2 = 394.3, df = 16, p < 0.001. Our results indicate that engineering instructors use multiple types of activities across classrooms, and labeling an entire course as nontraditional or active learning based may be problematic, as there is much variation and nuances that occurs in engineering classrooms. Furthermore, we find that most classes include a mix of traditional and nontraditional teaching methods, and implementing nontraditional teaching methods in the undergraduate engineering classroom does not always imply abandoning lecture. Our future work involves exploring how instructors implement these activities, how these teaching methods relate to students' evaluation of the instructor, and how faculty professional development can be used to help instructors implement activities as well as relating perceived use of teaching methods to institutional demographics, instructor's gender, course types, and other characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 24 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event124th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Columbus, United States
Duration: Jun 25 2017Jun 28 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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