A novel approach to mastery-based assessment in sophomore-level mechanics courses

Keith D. Hjelmstad, Amie Baisley

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Mechanics Project is a reimagination of the foundational mechanics courses that engineering students generally take in their sophomore year. The courses associated with the project (statics, dynamics, and deformable solids) were converted to a student-centered engaged learning environment with students spending most of their class time in a flipped recitation environment. The pedagogical transformation was complemented with the implementation of a novel assessment system based upon redundant demonstration of mastery of the course objectives. The assessment system requires two key things: (1) the definition of measurable course objectives that capture the fundamental concept strands-the DNA-of the course and (2) frequent assessment that incorporates the redundancy of demonstration required to confidently conclude mastery. The process of developing this system had a significant impact on the nature of the courses and informed the topical content and development of course materials. The main motivation for moving to a mastery-based grading system was to change the way students think about and experience assessment. The frequency of assessment reduces some of the stress of the testing environment and the redundancy promotes a spiral learning approach that helps students connect the components of the problem-solving process. A simple grading rubric and feedback system was created to provide timely, meaningful, and detailed feedback on their progress with each specific learning objective. This paper describes the learning objectives, the feedback the students receive following each assessment, and how mastery is assessed in each course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number71
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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