ACE: Innovative educational model to teach physics and mathematics for engineering students
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This paper presents details of the implementation of an educational innovation in an international context. In Mexico, we designed a classroom that we call the ACE classroom. ACE comes from the Spanish acronym for "Aprendizaje Centrado en el Estudiante" (Student-Centered Learning); also, the pronunciation of the acronym in Spanish is identical to that of the verb "do", and thus conveys the idea that students learn by doing in this classroom. The ACE classroom we designed is similar to the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) classroom, but with some innovations. The structure of the room, the design of materials and the use of active learning strategies in ACE aim to improve student learning in physics and math classes for engineering students. Physically, ACE is equipped with circular tables, whiteboards, projectors, a document camera, video cameras, and portable tablet-computers and calculators, among other technologies. The ACE setup is designed to facilitate access to any part of the room; the use of laboratory equipment on the tables promotes collaboration and student-centered learning. ACE has been used to teach different subjects. In this paper we will focus on teaching physics, calculus and differential equations for engineering students. For these subjects, the ACE setup encourages us to implement strategies that we would not be able to apply in other classrooms. In physics we use tutorials for introductory physics and peer instruction. In mathematics we use modeling; which is the use of physical phenomena to foster a visualization of mathematics as a tool to be used in the analysis, modeling and simulation, and interpretation of non-routine problems in real contexts. We have conducted research on learning concepts and technology, communication and problem solving skills. Students are given a standardized test for both pre- and post-testing to assess their learning of concepts. Technology skills are evaluated from the analysis of student behavior during the activities. Communication skills are assessed by analyzing videos of students' interactions during classes. Finally, problem solving skills are evaluated with established and validated rubrics. The results are that students in ACE have higher learning gains compared to similar students in other environments, and in addition to learning concepts, students also acquire technology, communication and problem-solving skills. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2013.