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Professor Dick Clements, Faculty of Engineering, University of Bristol r.r.clements@bristol.ac.uk rr-clements@cantab.net Prior Knowledge of Mechanics Amongst First Year Engineering Students UNIVERSITY LEARNING AND TEACHING WEEK 2007 9 January 2007

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3 Background 1960s and 1970s A-level Maths syllabi comprised 'pure mathematics' and 'applied mathematics' The 'applied mathematics' was basically classical mechanics In the last 25 years there has been a move to expose students to a wider range of applications Inclusion of additional modules on probability and statistics, and on 'decision mathematics Breadth gained but depth lost

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4 Background These developments have led to teaching inefficiencies Have to start probability and statistics from low level but some students know material already. A similar situation now emerging in mechanics

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5 Background The 2004 revision of the A-level mathematics syllabus has reduced still further the study of mechanics New syllabus for Maths A-level –core of 4 modules of pure mathematics –two modules of 'applications' –chosen from six modules, two in each of statistics, operations research and mechanics

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6 Background Students may study up to two modules of mechanics But an A-level can be obtained without studying any mechanics at all Probably most students will study at most one module of mechanics A significant proportion will study no mechanics at all

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7 Aim of project Aim of project is to develop ways of bringing all students entering Engineering courses up to a common level in basic mechanics No pre-judgement about the method of achieving this objective May include textbook based self study, CBT, and conventional lectured course units Mix of methods may allow the strengths of all approaches to be harnessed

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8 Initial Survey To establish a baseline we surveyed entry qualifications in mathematics in October 2005 All first year Engineering students (377) asked to complete a computer based survey Completed during an introductory computer session during the pre-sessional orientation week Response rate to the survey was virtually 100% Repeat survey in 2006, results still under analysis

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9 Initial Survey Data collected anonymously and was aggregated into 6 categories by Department –Aeronautical Engineering –Civil Engineering –Electrical Engineering –Mechanical Engineering –Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Design –Computer Science and Computer Systems Engineering

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10 Initial Survey The first section of the questionnaire established whether students had taken Mathematics A-levels or an alternative qualification 44 students (11.7%) reported that they had not taken A-levels in mathematics Details of alternative qualifications in printed version of this paper Responses of these 44 not analysed further

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11 Survey Findings 1 The 333 students who had taken A-levels in Mathematics identified the Board as follows

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12 Survey Findings 1 AQAEdExcelOCRothertotal Aeronautical20273858 (17%) Civil92717255 (17%) Electrical81817548 (14%) Mechanical1830241183 (25%) Eng Maths and Design 152622265 (20%) Computer Science and CSE 101812747 (14%) All80 (24%)146 (44%)95 (29%)35 (11%)356 (107%)

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13 Survey Findings 2 Total number of Boards identified by 333 respondents was 356 Explained by students who took papers from more than one Board Schools, in response to pressures created by 'league tables', are playing different Boards off against each other Entering students for A-levels from more than one Board in order to obtain the best possible grades

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14 Survey Findings 2 3 Boards2 Boards total Aeronautical 066(10%) Civil 011(2%) Electrical 022(4%) Mechanical 134(5%) Eng Maths and Design 6915(23%) Computer Science and CSE 011(2%) All 72229

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15 Survey Findings 3 The data was analysed firstly by Department Overall 89% of students took M1 with percentage in individual Departments varying from 80% to 96% No strong bias by discipline 72% of students overall took M2 with a variation between Departments from 63% to 79% Module M3, M4 and M5 were taken by only 23%, 20% and 3% of students overall.

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16 Survey Findings 3

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17 Survey Findings 4 Data was also analysed by exam board No significant difference between candidates taking A-levels from different Boards was found

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18 Survey Findings 4

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19 Findings of Robinson et al "Responding to the Changes in the Teaching and Learning of Mechanics in Schools" [1] by Robinson et al reports the results of a parallel survey Surveys of first year engineering students at Loughborough, Nottingham and Leicester Universities Across the three universities surveyed, 9% had studied no mechanics modules and 23% had studied one module only

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20 Conclusion This survey provides further, independent confirmation that the findings of Robinson et al are widespread Universities can no longer assume that entrants to engineering (and other technical and scientific degree courses) have the traditional of familiarity with concepts in basic mechanics Courses must be designed or modified to take this into account

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21 Conclusion This survey provides further, independent confirmation that the findings of Robinson et al are widespread Universities can no longer assume that entrants to engineering (and other technical and scientific degree courses) have the traditional of familiarity with concepts in basic mechanics Courses must be designed or modified to take this into account

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22 Further Work An initial report of the 2005 survey findingsinitial report An executive summary of the project findings, autumn 2006executive summary An analysis of the skills required by the questions in the OCR M1 paper Jan 2005, Jun2005 and Jan 2006.analysis of the skills

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