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Proceedings of the Scholarship and Innovation in Learning and Teaching (SILT) Symposium 2014

De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines


March 7, 2014


Outcomes-Based Assessment of a Basic Engineering Course
(Statics of Rigid Bodies)

Andres Winston C. Oreta
1*
and Cheryl Lyne C. Roxas
2

1
Professor, Civil Engineering Dept., De La Salle University
2
Asst. Professor, Civil Engineering Dept., De La Salle University
*Corresponding Author: andres.oreta@@dlsu.edu.ph


Abstract: This paper presents the implementation of the Outcomes-Based Education
(OBE) framework in a basic undergraduate engineering courseEngineering
Mechanics (Statics of Rigid Bodies)from syllabus design to course assessment. The
revision of the syllabus using the OBE format was carried out and outcomes-based
assessment is conducted to determine if the intended learning outcomes for this
course using the revised syllabus are achieved. Two types of assessment methods
were applied: direct and indirect methods to assess the attainment of the course
learning outcomes. The direct method used the scores in the quizzes and final
exams. The indirect method used an end-of-course evaluation by the faculty and
students to determine the perception on the achievement of outcomes. Based on the
outcomes-based assessment using direct methods, the achievement of the learning
outcomes is barely satisfactory while the review of the course syllabus and teaching
and learning activities is recommended.

Key Words: Outcomes-Based Education, Assessment, Syllabus, Engineering
Mechanics, Learning Outcomes


1. INTRODUCTION

Outcomes-Based Education is an
educational model in which the curriculum and
pedagogy and assessment are all focused on student
learning outcomes (Driscoll & Wood 2007 p.4).
Outcomes-Based Education is now accepted as a
framework in the accreditation of Engineering
Programs. The ABET in the US adopts its
Engineering Criteria, which basically follows the
OBE framework. Similarly, the Washington Accord,
which recognizes substantial equivalence in the
accreditation of qualifications in professional
engineering for the member countries, also adopts
similar criteria. As a result, various studies have
been conducted by engineering educators on how to
effectively implement the OBE framework in
engineering schools. Felder and Brent (2003) gave an
overview on ABET accreditation process and
described the instructional techniques that should
effectively prepare students to achieve the program
outcomes. Designing the learning outcomes of a
course follows a hierarchy from top to bottom
starting from the University Vision-Mission when
the expected graduate attributes are defined, then to
the Program level when the student or program
outcomes are articulated, and down to the course
level. The key to OBE is that the course learning
outcomes are aligned with the program outcomes and
the expected graduate attributes. Moreover, the
course content, teaching and learning activities
(TLAs), and assessment tasks (ATs) must address
the intended course learning outcomes (LO).
However, whether the course learning outcomes are
achieved or not needs to be assessed.

Assessment methods have been applied by
various universities in the US to satisfy the ABET
accreditation criteria. Rogers (2003) emphasized
that grades in the courses cannot capture the
achievement of the learning outcomes because
various factors were included in the computation of
the final grade. Specific outcomes-based assessment
Proceedings of the Scholarship and Innovation in Learning and Teaching (SILT) Symposium 2014
De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines
March 7, 2014
tools must be used to directly and indirectly measure
the achievement of outcomes. Menhart (2011)
discussed direct and indirect student assessment
methods, used by the Department of Engineering
Technology at the University of Arkansas at Little
Rock (UALR). He presented an example for a Digital
Systems Design course where exams, quizzes, and
reports are used for direct assessment and an end-of-
course evaluation was completed by the students for
their self-assessment of achievement of outcomes.
This self-assessment generates indirect assessment
data, which complements the traditional direct
assessment data. Gurocak (2009) presented an
approach for assessment of course outcomes using
direct measures. Specific homework and exams were
mapped to the knowledge and skills described by the
course outcomes. At the end of the semester,
students, aside from receiving their usual letter
grades, received a score on the scale of 1 to 5 for
every course outcome indicating how well he/she
achieved each outcome. The data (scores) coming
from each course are used at the program level to
assess the program outcomes. Based on these scores
and the data, the faculty may make changes in the
syllabus, teaching and learning activities, or even
revise the learning outcomes to improve the course
delivery, thus closing the loop.

This paper presents the results of a research
(Oreta & Roxas, 2013) on the implementation of the
OBE framework in a basic undergraduate
engineering courseEngineering Mechanics (Statics
of Rigid Bodies or STATICS)from syllabus design
to course assessment. The syllabus using the OBE
format is implemented and outcomes-based
assessment is conducted to determine if the intended
learning outcomes for this course using the revised
syllabus are achieved. Two types of assessment
methods were applied: direct and indirect methods to
assess the attainment of the course learning
outcomes. The direct method used the scores in the
quizzes and final exams. The indirect method that
uses an end-of-course evaluation by the faculty and
students is conducted to determine perceptions on
the achievement of outcomes. A pilot study on OBE
application at the course level will provide useful
information to the faculty and the department on
how OBE can be effectively implemented to improve
learning and meet accreditation needs.


2. STATICS AND THE LEARNING
OUTCOMES

Statics of Rigid Bodies (STATICS) is a
branch of Engineering Mechanics that deals with the
study of forces and interaction of forces that occur in
rigid bodies that are in static equilibrium. It is a
three unit course required for all engineering
programs and a prerequisite and essential to
structural or machine design courses. Various
knowledge and skills are aimed to be achieved in this
course. The key to course design is the formulation
of the course learning outcomes. Powers (2008)
provided guidelines and examples on how to write
learning outcomes. The revised OBE syllabus of
STATICS states three intended course learning
outcomes (LO) as follows:

At the end of this course, the student must
be able to:
LO1. Analyze the properties (components, resultants,
and moments) of a force and force systems in 2D &
3D.
LO2. Solve equilibrium problems of various types of
structures including friction problems using
analytical models, rigid bodies, FBDs, and equations
of equilibrium.
LO3. Solve the properties (centroid, center of gravity,
and moment of inertia) of areas, lines, and volumes
and apply these properties in equilibrium problems.

To realize the attainment of the outcomes,
the Constructive Alignment Principle (Biggs, 2003) is
applied. In the learning plan of the STATICS
Syllabus, the LOs being addressed by each lesson or
class meeting is indicated and the various TLAs are
listed for the instructors guidance. Instructors are
expected to use both blackboard and multimedia in
their lectures. Aside from traditional lectures, the
instructor can design activities that will engage the
students to construct learning. TLAs appropriate
with the topics of the STATICS course (e.g. video
showing, problem solving, lectures, etc.) are indicated
in the syllabus to guide the instructor in the delivery
of the course during the term.

The assessment tasks (ATs) used during the
term are also aligned with course learning outcomes
to help students achieve the LOs. In the present
STATICS syllabus, the traditional assessment
methods employed are aligned with the LOs as
shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Assessment Tasks in STATICS
Learning
Outcome
Assessment
Tasks
Date
LO1 LO2 Long Quiz #1 5
th
Week
LO1 LO2 Long Quiz #2 8
th
Week
LO1 LO3 Long Quiz #3 13
th
Week
LO1 LO3 Final Exams 14
th
Week

The raw scores in the Long Quizzes and the
Proceedings of the Scholarship and Innovation in Learning and Teaching (SILT) Symposium 2014
De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines
March 7, 2014
Final Exam are the basis of the final grades in the
course.


3. OUTCOMES-BASED ASSESSMENT
It must be noted that grades are not directly
used in assessing the achievement of learning
outcomes in the course and program level. Because
many factors contribute to an assigned grade, it is
almost impossible to make inferences about what a
student knows or can do by only looking at the
grades for a course (Rogers, 2003, p. 8).

There are two ways of assessing the
attainment of outcomes: direct and indirect methods.
Direct assessment is based on an analysis of student
behaviours or products in which they demonstrate
how well they have mastered learning outcomes.
Direct assessment methods use quizzes, exams, and
reports to measure students performance. Indirect
assessment, on the other hand, is based on an
analysis of reported perceptions about student
mastery of learning outcomes. Examples of indirect
assessment methods are surveys, interviews,
evaluations, questionnaire, and focus group.

3.1 Direct Assessment Methodology

Rogers (2003) emphasized that grades in the
courses can not capture the achievement of the
learning outcomes because various factors were
included in the computation of the final grade.
However, Rogers stated that, the numeric score that
is directly linked to students' performance on a
specific performance criteria can be used as evidence
of program learning outcomes (Rogers, 2003, p. 9).
Hence, direct assessment may used student ratings
for long quizzes and the final exam. For each long
quiz, the questions or problems that address specific
course learning outcomes are identified. Table 2 is a
sample spreadsheet of the scores of a sample Long
Quiz #1. In the sample Long Quiz No. 1, problem
nos. 1 and 2 address LO1, while problem nos. 3 and 4
assess LO2. For each student, the total score for
each outcome is obtained and when divided by the
maximum score and multiplied by 5 will yield the LO
score. In assigning an outcome score (1 to 5 scale) to
a student, Gurocak (2008) used the following
equation:

LO an for Points Max


LO an for Earned Points Total
5 score LO
(Eq. 1)

Hence, the LO1 score for student 1 (S1) is obtained
as follows:

LO1 Score = 5 x (20 + 15)/50 = 4.

Table 2. Direct Assessment Sample
Student LO1 (Max: 50 pts) LO2 (Max: 50 Pts)
P1
25%
P2
25%
LO1
Score
P3
30%
P4
20%
LO2
Score
S1 25 15 4 30 20 5
S2 10 5 1.5 20 15 3.5
Average 2.75 4.25

Throughout the term, the instructor keeps
track of the performance of each student on each LO
by considering all assessment tasks that are aligned
with each LO and the performance for each LO for
the class at the end of the term is assessed. Gurocak
(2008) suggested that if a course learning outcome
scores less than or equal to 3.0, the instructor
indicates that outcome and suggests either minor or
major changes (actions) to be taken by the program.
Gurocak (2008) stated that the major changes are
things that would result in modifications of the
master syllabus of the course such as adding,
rewording or deleting a course outcome, or changes
in the list of topics covered. Minor changes are things
that can be implemented next time when the course
is offered without altering its master syllabus. These
could include additional lecture to be spent to cover a
particular topic, a change in software, use of
supplemental textbooks, etc (p. 5).

3.2 Indirect Assessment Methodology

Indirect assessment, in the form of an end-of-
course-evaluation, is conducted. The indirect
assessment task is a questionnaire wherein the
students answer questions related to the course,
instructor, and learning outcomes using a Likert
scale of 1 through 5, where 5 means strongly
agree, 4 means agree, 3 means neutral, 2
means disagree, and 1 means strongly disagree.
An end-of-course-evaluation almost similar in
content with the students form was also prepared for
the instructors to fill out. The end-of-course
evaluation forms are completed by the students and
the faculty during the final examination. The survey
can be conducted online (using surveymonkey) or in
the class.

Aside from complementing direct
assessment, indirect assessment serves also the
purpose of triangulationusing more than one
assessment method to measure attainment of
learning outcomes. Aside from learning outcomes,
questions related to the course, instructor, teaching,
Proceedings of the Scholarship and Innovation in Learning and Teaching (SILT) Symposium 2014
De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines
March 7, 2014
and learning activities were included in the
evaluation form to capture more data that may be
useful in improving the course design and delivery.
Indirect assessment is useful when a negative or a
relatively low rating is obtained in a specific question
in the survey as this will guide the teacher on a
possible weakness in the course design and/or
delivery.

4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The study was conducted during Term 1,
AY2012-2013 when STATICS is offered as a regular
course to majority of the engineering students. Five
sections labeled as Sections U, B, D, G, and P under
five Civil Engineering teachers were selected for the
data gathering. Students enrolled in the various
sections in STATICS are usually mixed from
different engineering degree programs. The data for
the quizzes were gathered from the respective
professors. Copies of the questionnaire for each quiz
were collected and the scores for each problem per
quiz were recorded. The complete data can be
obtained from the appendices of the research (Oreta
& Roxas, 2013).

4.1 Direct Assessment Results

Table 3 shows the summary of the scores of
the three learning outcomes using the quiz scores for
direct assessment of the five sections. The average
scores of the LOs for the five sections are: LO1 =
3.35, LO2 = 2.77, and LO3 = 3.38. If the cut-off value
of 3.0 is used, LO1 and LO3 seems to be satisfactorily
achieved and LO2 needs further review. However,
further analysis of Tables 3 and 4 would present
issues that needs to be addressed.

Table 3. Direct Assessment Results (Long Quizzes)
Section
LO U B G D P Ave
LO1 2.85 3.68 3.51 3.05 3.66 3.35
LO2 3.31 2.73 2.59 2.16 3.04 2.77
LO3 3.44 3.34 3.09 3.41 3.61 3.38

Some observations about the results are summarized
below:
(a) Table 3 shows that the LO1 score ranges from a
low of 2.85 to a high of 3.68. The LO2 score
ranges from a low of 2.16 to a high of 3.31. The
LO3 score ranges from a low of 3.09 to a high of
3.61.

Table 4. Number of Problems (Total Points) in Long
Quizzes
Section
LO U B G D P Ave
LO1 3
(33)
1
(40)
3
(55)
1
(10)
2
(50)
2
(38)
LO2 8
(144)
8
(250)
8
(165)
7
(210)
8
(200)
8
(194)
LO3 2
(18)
1
(30)
2
(60)
1
(30)
1
(25)
1
(33)

(b) Table 4 shows that the number of problems and
their corresponding maximum points for each
LO. It is shown that the assigned number of
problems and points to LO1 and LO3 for each
section are relatively less compared to LO2. On
the average, only three problems with 33 points
were allotted for LO1 and only one problem with
33 points for LO3. The scores for LO1 and LO3
are higher in most cases compared to the scores
for LO2 except for Section U. It can be observed
that some teachers gave only one problem for a
specific LO (e.g. LO1 and LO3 for Section B/D
and LO3 for Section P), meaning only one
assessment task was used for that LO. The
reliability is in question when there is only one
assessment task or problem used to assess an
LO. Triangulation requires at least two
assessment tasks or two problems in case of
quizzes to effectively assess achievement of a
learning outcome. Even if LO1 and LO3 have an
average rating greater than 3.0, the rating is
barely passing. The results from the final exams
may be used to verify the achievement of these
two LOs.
(c) LO2 is too broad. This is the reason why there
are more problems (average of eight) and more
points (average of 194 points) assigned. In fact,
all problems in Quiz no. 2 address LO2 only.
Moreover, the analysis of properties, specifically
the components of forces, is usually incorporated
in solving equilibrium problems. There is a need
to review LO2 and probably break it into two
learning outcomes to capture specific skills and
knowledge.
Proceedings of the Scholarship and Innovation in Learning and Teaching (SILT) Symposium 2014
De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines
March 7, 2014
In order to show the distributional
characteristics of the LO scores obtained in each
STATICS section for the quizzes, box plots were
generated. A box plot is a graphical way of
displaying the distribution of data through the use of
median, quartiles, and extreme values (Barette,
Leech & Morgan 2005). In Figure 1, there is a clear
indication of variability in the distribution of LO
scores. It can also be observed that no faculty
obtained the same median and distribution in any of
the LO. This can be attributed to the differences in
terms of the level of difficulty in the quiz items and
also the time spent in discussing the topics. There is
also an uneven size of the sections in the box plots,
which indicate that students achieved the LOs in
different scales, that is, some have the same scores in
a certain part of the scale while others have varying
scores in other parts of the scale. For example, in the
LO1 of P, the scores are very similar towards the 3rd
quartile. Notice that some box plots are shorter than
the others, which indicate a high level of agreement
in the scores. Long box plot specifies difference in
the scores.

In the previous section, the scores of the long
quizzes were used to directly assess the attainment
of the learning outcomes. The scores in the long
quizzes are also affected by the type of problems
(which vary in difficulty per section) and the point
system used in checking each problem (which
depends on the teachers criteria). To determine the
achievement of the LOs for an assessment, which is
the same for all sections, the final exam is used to
verify the direct assessment using long quizzes. The
final exam is a 50-item multiple-choice exam, which
involves problem solving and objective questions.
The questions related to each LO were identified and
grouped to determine the LO Scores (using Equation
1).

Table 5. Direct Assessment Results (Final Exam)
Section
LO U B G D P Ave
LO1 2.47 2.20 2.54 2.19 2.79 2.44
LO2 2.58 2.30 2.82 2.43 2.85 2.60
LO3 2.19 2.60 2.48 1.75 2.27 2.26

Table 5 shows the average LO scores for each
outcome per section. Compared to the LO scores
based on Long Quizzes, the values are relatively
lower especially for LO1 and LO3. Obviously, the
assessment of LO1 and LO3 using quizzes must be
reviewed. The scores for LO2 of 2.77 and 2.60 based
on Quizzes and Final Exam, respectively, are close
enough, which means that the LO2 assessment using
quizzes is acceptable. Still, the LO scores are
relatively low.
In order to show the distributional
characteristics of the LO scores obtained in each
STATICS section for the final exam, box plots were
also generated. Figure 2 presents a box plot of the
LO scores in the final exam per faculty. Same
median but different distribution of scores can be
observed for some faculty in each LO. For example,
in LO1, G and P have the same median and
distribution. Although U has the same median, its
distribution of scores is higher than that of G and P.
This explains the evident variability in the LO
scores. Almost the same distribution of scores can be
observed in LO2 and LO3, while difference among
sections can be seen in the LO1 scores.
Figure 1. Box plot of LO scores in the long
quizzes per faculty
Proceedings of the Scholarship and Innovation in Learning and Teaching (SILT) Symposium 2014
De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines
March 7, 2014
Comparing the box plots of quizzes and the
final exam, it can be deduced that there is an evident
difference in the LO scores, with lower scores
obtained in the final exam. Noticeable variability in
the box plots is evident in the quizzes compared to
the final exam. This can be explained by the
differences in the long quizzes given by each faculty,
unlike in the final exam wherein all STATICS
students answered the same questions.

4.2 Indirect Assessment Results

The end-of-course evaluation was conducted
during the final exams for both the faculty and
students. Box No. 1 shows a section of the survey for
the students.

Table 6 presents the results of the survey
evaluation by the faculty and students. The five
faculty members rated his/her assessment of the
class achievement of the LOs. The teachers
perception on students achievement of LOs is high.

Table 6. Indirect Assessment Results: Faculty vs
Students (in parenthesis)
Section
LO U B G D P Ave
LO1 4
(4.07)
4
(3.82)
4
(3.94)
4
(3.67)
5
(3.95)
4.20
(3.89)
LO2 4
(4.17)
4
(4.07)
4
(3.94)
4
(3.73)
5
(3.65)
4.20
(3.91)
LO3 4
(4.31)
4
(3.53)
4
(3.69)
4
(3.87)
5
(3.51)
4.20
(3.78)

From a sample of 147 students from five
sections, the assessment of the students on
achievement of the LOs are shown as average scores
(in parenthesis) in Table 6. The student perception
of their achievement of learning outcomes is lower
than that of their teacher in most cases except for
Section U. However, the scores from indirect
assessment are relatively higher than the scores
from direct assessment. This is the same as the
observation by Menhart (2011) that the indirect
method results do not fully reflect the reality of what
students can actually do in the course. It appears
that some students had an inflated view of their own
capabilities (p. 5).

Menhart (2011) also noted that positive
results in indirect methods must be confirmed by
direct assessment methods, because students may
overestimate their abilities. Negative responses in
indirect methods should be examined carefully,
especially if the result represents a significant
percentage of the class. This should be taken as an
early warning sign to improve the course (p. 6).
Aside from this, faculty members may also
overestimate their teaching performance.

For the present study, both the faculty and
students have a positive perception (agree to
Figure 2. Box plot of LO scores in the final exam
f lt
Box No. 1: Survey on Learning Outcomes
For the Student: Rate your over-all assessment per learning outcome using the scale. (5. Strongly Agree 4. Agree 3.
Neutral 2. Disagree 1. Strongly Disagree )
______ 1. LO1: I can correctly and completely analyze the properties of a force (components, resultants and moments)
and force systems in 2D & 3D, in most cases.
______ 2. LO2: I can correctly and completely solve equilibrium problems of various types of structures including
friction problems using analytical models, rigid bodies, FBD and equations of equilibrium, in most cases.
______ 3. LO3: I can correctly and completely solve the properties of sections (centroid, center of gravity and moment of
inertia) represented as areas, lines and volumes and apply these properties in equilibrium problems, in most cases.
Proceedings of the Scholarship and Innovation in Learning and Teaching (SILT) Symposium 2014
De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines
March 7, 2014
strongly agree) on the achievement of learning
outcomes. The positive perception of the students is
a good indication of their satisfaction on the delivery
of the course.

5. CONCLUSIONS
From the results of outcomes-based assessment
using direct and indirect methods, the following
recommendations are proposed to further improve
the teaching and learning of STATICS.
The course learning outcomes must be revised,
specifically, LO2 must be broken into two or
more learning outcomes. This will address
subtasks that rated low in the student
assessment.
The number of problems per learning outcome
must be standardized making sure that there are
at least two problems per learning outcome to
satisfy the concept of triangulation.
Teaching and learning activities and assessment
task must be reviewed and revised.
More student-centered learning activities like
problem solving, seatwork, and collaborative
work must be adopted to assure mastery of the
learning outcomes.
Standardized lecture notes and problem sets, as
well as departmental long quizzes, can help
reduce the variance among professors handling
STATICS. Hence, a better analysis and a more
reliable conclusion can be derived.
These recommendations were incorporated in
the revised syllabus of STATICS, which was adopted
in AY 2013-2014. Among the changes of the revised
proposed syllabus are:
The number of learning outcomes is increased
from three to five:
o LO1. Identify and determine the components
and resultant of forces and force systems in
2D and 3D.
o LO2. Analyze effects of forces on rigid bodies
in static equilibrium using free body
diagrams and equations of equilibrium.
o LO3. Analyze the external and internal
effects of forces on structures such as beams,
trusses, frames, and simple machines.
o LO4. Analyze the effects of friction forces on
rigid bodies in static equilibrium.
o LO5. Solve the properties (centroid, center of
gravity, and moment of inertia) of areas,
lines, and volumes and apply these
properties in equilibrium problems.
Problem Sets which addresses specific LOs are
now required as assessment tasks:
o Problem Set No. 1 (LO1, LO2) Resultants
and Equilibrium of Force Systems in 2D
o Problem Set No. 2 (LO3) Analysis of
Trusses and Frames
o Problem Set No. 3 (LO4, LO5) Friction,
Forces in 3D, Centroids (Optional)
There is a recommendation on distribution of
problems for the long quizzes and problem sets
to equally address the various LOs:
o Long Quiz No. 1 At least two problems on
LO1 and two problems on LO2
o Long Quiz No. 2 At least three problems
on LO3
o Long Quiz No. 3 At least two problems on
LO4 (Friction) and two problems on LO5.
One problem on forces in space (LO1/LO2).

Based on this study of applying outcomes-based
assessment in the course level, the following
recommendations are suggested to simplify the
process:
Indicate on the specific problem in the long
quizzes, problem sets, and even final exams
which learning outcome is addressed.
For easy recording of scores for each LO,
standardize the number of problems per LO as
suggested in the proposed revised syllabus.

6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was funded by the DLSU
University Research Coordination Office (URCO).


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Proceedings of the Scholarship and Innovation in Learning and Teaching (SILT) Symposium 2014
De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines
March 7, 2014
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