How to Use Graphical Data Presentation Techniques to Improve Student Success, Curriculum, and Program Assessment

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

American Society of Engineering Education 2015 Illinois-Indiana Section Conference

Conference Location

Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne, IN


In the second half of the 20th century, quality systems used in manufacturing and service industries changed from measuring inputs to measuring outputs. ABET made this transition in 1997, changing from a focus on inputs (courses taught by professors) to measuring outputs (skills and knowledge gained and retained by students). Students, professors, program coordinators, and department chairs must answer three questions: [1] what are we doing well, [2] what are we not doing well, and [3] how do we improve? In some cases, we can use graphical data presentation techniques to answer these questions. Scatter graphs show relationships between variables that are not evident in tables, and they show changes in variables with respect to time. A student may ask “why is my grade lower than I would like?” We can use graphs to show the student's progress in real time as the semester advances, then predict the final course grade based on alternate hypotheses (e.g., “I will earn 90% on all remaining assignments”; “I will barely pass the remaining assignments”). As a professor, I asked why the failure rate in Strength of Materials is so high, then used a variety of graphs to determine the indicators for success and failure. As a consequence, my department made a curriculum change in Fall 2014; we should see results starting in Fall 2015. This paper shows how I used graphical data presentation techniques in undergraduate Mechanical Engineering Technology classes to improve student success, teaching effectiveness, and curriculum. A nearly identical paper will be presented at the ASEE national conference in Seattle this summer.



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