Context and Reflection:
I developed learning objectives and a set of guided notes for a segment of Hydraulics (CE 382) called “Dimensional Analysis”. This was a small section of material and was the last section covered before the final exam. The goal of this lecture was to provide context and background for some of the empirically-developed equations that students had been using in earlier sections of the class.
The goal of these notes and learning objectives was to ensure that students understood the basic concept of dimensional analysis and why it is done. Additionally, they should be able to derive a dimensionless parameter using the method presented in the notes.
Students were given a two-part question on the final exam to assess their understanding of this concept. Most students successfully demonstrated their understanding on the first part of the question, which was determining the number of dimensionless parameters for a particular physical scenario. Fewer, about one fourth, were able to derive the dimensionless parameter. Part of the problem was that many students made the same error; they thought the dimensions of angular velocity were [Length/Time], when in fact the dimensions are [1/Time]. This assessment question, therefore, highlighted a lack of understanding of another course concept, and affected the students’ success on this particular question. This demonstrated to me that it can be useful to try to decouple concepts from one another in order to more specifically assess student understanding.