Background: Similar to other domains, engineering education lacks a framework to classify active learning methods used in classrooms, which makes it difficult to evaluate when and why they are effective for learning. Purpose/Hypothesis: This study evaluated the effectiveness and applicability of the Differentiated Overt Learning Activities (DOLA) framework, which classifies learning activities as interactive, constructive, or active, for engineering classes. We tested the ICAP hypothesis that student learning is more effective in interactive than constructive activities, which are more effective than active activities, which are more effective than passive activities. Design/Method: We conducted two studies to determine how and to what degree differentiated activities affected student learning outcomes; we measured student knowledge and understanding of materials science and engineering concepts. Results: Study 1 showed that students scored higher on all postclass quiz questions after participating in interactive and constructive activities than after the active activities. Student scores on more difficult, inference questions suggested that interactive activities provided significantly deeper learning than constructive or active activities. Study 2 showed that student learning, in terms of gain scores, increased systematically from passive to active to constructive to interactive, as predicted by the ICAP hypothesis. All the increases, from condition to condition, were significant. Conclusions: Our analyses of classroom activities in the engineering domain showed that they fit within the taxonomy of the DOLA framework. The results of the two studies provided evidence to support the predictions of the ICAP hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-374
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Active learning
  • Engineering learning
  • Instructional methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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