New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

Enhancing Students’ Learning Skills by Enriching the Lecture “Mechanics 1 / Statics” in Various Interactive Ways

Michael Canz, Offenburg University Information Center (Germany)

Evgenia Sikorski, Offenburg University (Germany)


Skills, abilities and capability of German freshmen are extremely heterogeneous, depending on their age, attained level of education and motivational aspects. It is striking that our students tend to recoil from any subject which requires a lot of mathematics. Which mechanics does to a high extend. As a result, drop-out numbers in engineering degree programs are as high as 50 percent.

Math is that hard for freshmen, since the bridge between life and math is indeed not easy to cross. Therefore they also face enormous difficulties with mechanics. Several approaches have been tried out to enhance student’s skills. Eventually, a teaching technique has been developed which allows to successfully bridge the gap between life and mechanics. Surveys have shown that students are exceptionally comfortable with this technique.

  1. Learning is problem-based in the first place. Problems of different levels are solved during lessons. The access to theoretical issues is developed by or even after solving problems. Given that, even students with lower abilities are enabled to understand the methodological background.
  2. Challenging students to independently transfer these acquired skills to other mechanical problems is helpful. At the end of each lecture one or two randomly selected students are given a problem and asked to solve it beforehand and present at the beginning of the next lecture. Given a small numbers of student in the group, chances are high that every student is bound to participate at least once during the term. According to feed-back received, especially weaker students benefit from that kind of model learning to a great extent.
  3. We are surrounded by mechanical issues. A funny every-day-life problem is shown in each lecture, which allows the students to apply their fresh theoretical knowledge. The problems are analyzed by groups of 4 or 5 students independently, which leads to an enhanced and reflective perception of each and every one. The favorite ones are “Eggplants in balance”, “Balancing a broomstick”, “Sensitive Cups”, “Teaching a youngster robot to ski”.
  4. All lectures were filmed by the Information Center of the Offenburg University during the previous term. Additionally to the notes taken by the students individually during the lectures, these recordings are helpful in the process of preparation and post-processing of the material. The recordings are accessible via the university’s learning management system “Moodle”.

Surveys conducted showed that students benefit from the great variety of the interactive arrangements provided. In the end, they successfully transfer these positive learning experiences to other subjects.

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