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A Guided Inquiry-Based Learning Approach to High Performance Computer Graphics Education

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Innovative Instructional Strategies and Curricula in ECE I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.46.1 - 22.46.13

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Paper Authors


Alejandra J. Magana Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Alejandra J. Magana is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Technology and the School of Engineering Education, at Purdue University. Alejandra's research interest are focused on identifying how computational tools and methods can support the understanding of complex phenomena for scientific discovery and for inquiry learning.

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Bedrich Benes Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Bedrich Benes is Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Czech Technical University in Prague. He is coauthor of two text books and more than 70 papers in the area of Computer Graphics.

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A Guided Inquiry-Based Learning Approach to High Performance Computer Graphics Education Inquiry‐based learning is a pedagogical method which has received great support from educational researchers and educators. It involves students: (a) identifying problems and solutions and the testing of these solutions; (b) designing studies under students' own procedures; (c) collecting and analyzing data; (d) discussion of findings and formulation of evidence and/or new questions; (e) linking of experience to activities, science concepts, and science principles; and (f) sharing, discussing, and debating of procedures, products, and solutions. (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999; Pizzini et al. as cited in Roth, 1993).  Opportunities for learning associated to inquiry‐based learning are the development of general inquiry abilities, the acquisition of specific investigation skills, and  the development of improved understanding of science concepts (Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999). However, inquiry‐based learning has also received extensive criticism (Kuhn, Black, Keselman, & Kaplan, 2000).   One aspect being criticized is the considerable consumption of classroom time (Kuhn, et al., 2000).  Another aspect relates to the invalid assumption that students posses the required cognitive skills to engage in inquiry activities (Kuhn, et al., 2000). Similarly, from a psychological perspective, Kirschener, Sweller, and Clark (2006), provided an ample discussion of why approaches such as inquiry‐based learning does not work.  Kirschener and colleagues argued that presenting students with complete information, perhaps through direct instruction, may result in a more accurate mental representation that can be easily acquired by the learner. Computer graphics is one of the most quickly developing areas of computer science. It is applied in traditional fields such as scientific visualization, gaming, or computer aided design. Recently, with the development of advanced computer graphics chips, a new emergent area has appeared where computer graphics is applied into high performance computing. With the power of 1TFLOP in a single graphics card, such as NVIDIA Tesla, the users have widely applicable tools and hardware platforms that can be used in computer graphics, but also in scientific computing. There is no clear way of teaching these mixed approaches. Students and educators suffer from rapidly changing field. The APIs, such as Cg, CUDA, or OpenCL, are changing significantly every six months and new hardware architectures appear every year. In this study we present a guided inquiry‐based learning approach for high performance computer graphics education.  In our courses students solve open‐ended problems in advanced computer graphics using the latest computer graphics technologies and developer tools. The guided inquiry‐based learning approach is a mixture of inquiry approaches and direct instruction approaches.  Students first learn the concepts and then apply them in an inquiry‐based research activity. The pedagogical method has been implemented during an academic term in two different courses: an introductory graduate course of computer graphics education and an advanced graduate course of high performance computer graphics.  The research questions for this study are a) how undergraduate and graduate students perceive a guided inquiry‐based learning approach implemented during the entire academic term? And b) what are the differences on undergraduate and graduate students’ perceptions on a guided inquiry‐based learning approach? To pursue this investigation we designed an online anonymous survey and questionnaire to identify students’ perceptions of the pedagogical method implemented in terms of learning outcomes, evidence of the learning, and pedagogical approach (Wiggins & McTighe, 1997). Qualitative and quantitative research methods were used to identify students’ perceptions of the pedagogical method employed.  Our ultimate goal is that by identifying, comparing, and contrasting beginners and advanced computer graphics students’ perceptions of the learning outcomes, evidence of the learning, and pedagogical approaches, more effective ways of using guided inquiry‐based learning approaches will be identified.  References: Edelson, D., Gordin, D., & Pea, R. (1999). Addressing the challenges of inquiry‐based learning through  technology and curriculum design. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8(3), 391‐450. Kirschner, P., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work:  An analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem‐Based, Experiential, and Inquiry‐ Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75‐86. Kuhn, D., Black, J., Keselman, A., & Kaplan, D. (2000). The development of cognitive skills to support  inquiry learning. Cognition and Instruction, 495‐523. Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (1997). Understanding by Design: Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision  and Curriculum Development.   

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