In my Introduction to Physics class in spring 2016, I integrated a series of mini-lectures, hands-on activities, and conceptual questions for topics relating to internal energy into a single worksheet of questions that students complete as groups. I occasionally interrupted to have students discuss certain questions and so I could help motivate the answers to a few others. It seemed that students in past semesters were getting bored with perhaps the timing of or maybe the linear way we went through the series. Allowing students to work more at their own paces through this broad topic did seem to keep them significantly more engaged than in past semesters. I consider this activity a success for this reason. Several other things have changed this semester, including the exams I use to assess this part of the course. I timed the exams differently; it is now somewhat integrated with electricity and magnetism. So, I am relying on my assessment of student engagement to tell me how successful this particular change has been. Since it kept students more engaged than past methods, I will continue to use and modify this activity for future semesters.
Glad to see that student engagement increased. As an introductory to physics class, I know that the physics department wants students to learn how to think and process science. It's not that they want great physicist from this intro class, but to get an appreciation of physics. So, having more student engagement may help with this.
Student engagement is of course critical, and certainly allowing students to work at their own pace, etc., will increase it, so well done. Just curious; how did you measure student engagement?
It was a qualitative observation.