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A New Engineering Taxonomy For Assessing Conceptual And Problem Solving Competencies

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Conceptual Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.64.1 - 15.64.15



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Paper Authors


Morris Girgis Central State University

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Morris Girgis is a professor at Central State University. He teaches undergraduate courses in manufacturing engineering. He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Hannover University, Germany. His current research in engineering education focuses on developing and implementing new educational tools and approaches to enhance teaching, learning and assessment at the course and curriculum levels.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A ew Engineering Taxonomy for Assessing Conceptual and Problem-Solving Competencies


An engineering taxonomy is being proposed in order to assess and enhance the student’s conceptual and problem-solving competencies. The taxonomy consists of the following taxa: pre-knowledge conceptual experiences; basic conceptual knowledge; applied conceptual knowledge; procedural knowledge; advanced knowledge and analytical skills; project-based knowledge; and professional engineering knowledge and practice. A Concept and Problem- solving Inventory (CPI) has been developed in order to assess the student’s conceptual and procedural skills. The CPI contains a set of mechanics problems designed to fit the three levels of the taxonomy: fundamental, intermediate and advanced. The incremental growth of engineering problem-solving skills, as illustrated by the taxonomy and the CPI, is also applicable to other STEM disciplines: science, technology and mathematics. The CPI served as the framework for developing an assessment instrument with measurable outcomes that enable scoring, as well as placing the student at the appropriate level within the taxonomy. Further, a sample laboratory assignment is presented to demonstrate the positive impact of hands-on experiences on the student’s conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills. Initial results of a test series given to engineering juniors are reported. These results indicate the effectiveness of the developed tools including the taxonomy, the CPI, and the assessment rubric. The paper offers an integrated approach to develop and enhance the student’s concept and procedural skills by utilizing the presented tools. The approach is iterative and requires flexibility and adjustment while using these tools to best prepare and advance the classroom environment.

I. Introduction One of the pressing challenges facing engineering educators is teaching students the engineering concepts while enhancing their problem-solving competencies. It has been observed that students who are able to identify basic concepts and possess conceptual knowledge may still struggle to solve multi-concept or multi-disciplinary problems. In addition, professors may underestimate the difficulty level of an engineering problem, until they realize the weak performance that students exhibit in solving such a problem on an exam. Therefore, the lack of problem-solving skills among engineering students has to be further addressed through investigating and researching the underlying reasons for this deficiency. Over the past two decades, extensive research on conceptual knowledge has focused on assessing and enhancing the student’s understanding of the engineering concepts1-4. Research on conceptual knowledge is central to all research addressing engineering instruction and learning mechanisms. Concept inventories (CIs) 1 were developed to assess the student understanding of a specific engineering course or domain. These inventories have proven to be excellent tools for evaluating course content and assessing conceptual competencies. However, CIs do not directly measure or address student problem-solving competencies. Therefore, there is a need for further research to develop instructional tools for assessing and enhancing the student’s knowledge and

Girgis, M. (2010, June), A New Engineering Taxonomy For Assessing Conceptual And Problem Solving Competencies Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16727

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