A collection of collaborative, in-class exercises have been designed for use in a freshmen/sophomore level Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering class. The activities are team based problems that include open ended design problems, calculation questions, and thought problems on unanswered research questions. The activities have been designed with the goal of having one or two a week embedded in a more traditional lecture setting. The exercises relate to the topics covered in most standard Introduction to Materials classes (crystal structure, mechanical properties, polymers, phase diagrams…). Each activity is designed specifically to engage the students in the lecture and excite them about the material. This is accomplished by relating the lecture material to a modern application. For example, students learn about the mechanical properties of different polymer structures by comparing plastic bags and milk bottles. The author has found that one major tool needed for the success of the collaborative learning exercises has been the implementation of reading quizzes. The reading quizzes are quick, five minute quizzes on the assigned reading done at the beginning of class. The students are then ready (and excited) to work on higher level problems in-class. Survey results of student’s opinion show that the reading quizzes and collaborative learning exercises increase the student’s learning (in their opinion) and increase their motivation to read prior to class and attend class.
Stacy Gleixner and Hilary Lackritz. "Use of Collaborative Learning Exercises to Increase Student Motivation and Learning in an Introduction to Materials Engineering Course" ASEE Annual Conference (2004): 9.1351.1-9.1351.10.