June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
22.48.1 - 22.48.10
A HEURISTIC TO AID TEACHING, LEARNING AND PROBLEM-SOLVING FOR MECHANICS OF MATERIALSThe Mechanics of Materials course is fundamental to all areas of solid engineering mechanics. Itis a required course in such programs as Mechanical, Civil, Naval Architecture and MarineEngineering, Industrial, Chemical, and Biomedical Engineering. It often functions as a decision-provoking course, whereby students determine whether or not they persist in majoring inengineering or choose to exit engineering as a major. The course is generally considered“difficult” by students; although the math required is not particularly advanced, the content andvocabulary (unchanged in practice for decades) are new to students. Educators across severalengineering disciplines over the past few decades have attempted to improve learning through avariety of efforts such as: (a) development of physical demonstration models for classroom use,(b) development of computer programs to assist, encourage and facilitate independent learningby students, (c) concept inventory studies to uncover the underlying cause of learning thecontent, (d) development of active learning strategies for use in the classroom, (e) project-basedtasks for students to learn by doing and (f) peer teaching/learning. Among our own efforts toimprove learning, we observed that students often miss the global connections of the many topicsin the course, that students get “lost” in the midst of problem solutions, and that students havedifficulty storing their knowledge in their memories. All too often, we have known brightstudents who were unsuccessful in recalling basic problems only a few weeks after completingthe course. Through our multi-year efforts, our goal is to help students make the concept andproblem-solving connections using somewhat basic sketches they can recreate from memorysimply using paper and pencil. In this paper we describe a basic concept map developed atUSCGA to use as an instructional aide which organizes the problem-solving process whileshowing the “big picture” components of the whole course. Our work began by having studentsdevelop their personal concept maps as a means to learn or to demonstrate their understanding ofthe course content. Those activities revealed a road-block to use as instructional aides for avariety of reasons. First, the personal concept maps were so personal that the instructor had tointerview virtually every student to uncover the intended meaning. Second, the personal mapsshowed so little commonality that they were not useful in facilitating communication amongstudents. Most importantly, student concept maps did not show the global connection of alltopics taught in the course and the problem-solving process, which was a primary goal of ours.Therefore, we created a “common” concept map which we use to teach and review Mechanics ofMaterials. This map has become a focal point for class lecture and tutoring. It is sufficientlysimple so that anyone could re-create its basics as a hand-drawn sketch. In this paper, we presenta literature review, we include the “common concept map”, we detail several ways in whichwe’ve used the heuristic, and finally describe preliminary results assessing its efficacy.
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