Do More Labs Lead to Increased Student Learning?

  • Anne Schmitz University of Wisconsin-Stout
Keywords: active learning, kinesthetic learning, polytechnic, student satisfaction


Background: Integrated lab-lecture courses are popular in undergraduate engineering courses as they employ the benefits of hands-on activities without the student dissatisfaction of a flipped classroom. Hypothesis: The goal of this project was to test the hypothesis that the number of hands-on activities is positively correlated with student achievement (i.e., grades). Methods: This work was done within a junior/senior-level Machine Components course. The number of hands-on, physical lab activities and overall course grades were collected from 132 students over three semesters. The correlation of these two variables was quantified using Spearman’s correlation coefficient. Student evaluation scores were also analyzed better to understand the effect of hands-on activities on achievement. Results and Discussion: The number of hands-on lab activities was not statistically correlated with overall student grades for the semester, rs = -0.16, p = 0.06. Although, this negative correlation of relative significance may support critical claims in the literature of the meshing hypothesis and suggest a more diverse range of labs (e.g., hands-on, computational) may be a better approach. Interestingly, increasing the number of hands-on activities was associated with better student ratings of the instructor’s overall teaching effectiveness. This trend suggests students were more satisfied with the course overall as more hands-on experiences were added.