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A Problem Based Introduction To Nuclear Sciences

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovative Practices in NRE Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.74.1 - 10.74.8



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Paper Authors

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William Miller

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Gayla Neumeyer

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Matthew Schmidt

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David Jonassen

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

A Problem-Based Introduction to Nuclear Sciences

David Jonassen Matthew Schmidt William Miller Gayla Neumeyer University of Missouri

Funded by the US Department of Energy (DE-FG07-03ID14531) under the Innovations in Nuclear Infrastructure and Education grant program, we have designed and are implementing a problem-based, web-assisted introductory survey course, Utilization of Nuclear Technologies in Society. The goals of the course are to provide non-majors a meaningful introduction to the many applications of nuclear science in a modern society and to stimulate student interest in academic studies and/or professional involvement in nuclear science. Rather than learning about nuclear science, the course requires students, working in collaborative groups, to solve one of three authentic nuclear problems in five different domains, including elemental and content analysis, materials modification, radiation gauging, solid/liquid Interface, and heart imaging.

Why Problem-Based Learning?

Problem-based learning (PBL) emerged in medical schools as a method for better preparing physicians to be problem solvers. From there, PBL has migrated to law schools, business schools, and engineering colleges. In fact, several engineering programs around the world (e.g., Aalborg University on Denmark, McMasters University in Canada, Monash University in Australia, Manchester University in England, Glasgow University in Scotland, Eindhoven University in the Netherlands, and Republic Polytechnic in Singapore) deliver the majority of their curricula via PBL. Additionally, PBL modules or courses have been implemented in numerous engineering programs, including biomedical engineerin1, chemical engineering2, software engineering 3,4, thermal physics5, design processe6, aerospace engineering 7, computing 8, civil engineering, microelectronic9, construction engineering10, control theory 11 . Limited efforts have even examined the use of PBL for engineering workplace training12.

PBL has been shown to be effective in supporting both content knowledge and professional reasoning skills. Two early meta-analyses 13,14 found that traditional, basic-sciences medical students perform better than PBL students in basic science knowledge acquisition, while PBL students performed better than traditional students in clinical knowledge acquisition. However, other studies have shown that PBL is more effective than traditional methods in promoting in-depth understanding of content 15, 16, 17. Recent research18 has shown that when the University of Missouri medical school implemented PBL as a major component of their curriculum, the mean scores on both the knowledge acquisition and the clinical improved by a standard deviation. PBL is effective because the knowledge that is acquired while solving problems is better comprehended, more transferable, and retained longer. An engineer must possess both content knowledge and context-specific problem-solving skills in order to function effectively as an engineer. However, content knowledge alone is insufficient for solving engineering problems. The best predictor of problem-solving skill is prior experience. PBL focuses on engaging students as soon as possible in acquiring problem- solving experience.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Miller, W., & Neumeyer, G., & Schmidt, M., & Jonassen, D. (2005, June), A Problem Based Introduction To Nuclear Sciences Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15119

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