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A Procedure For Gathering Experience From Practicing Engineers In Order To Teach Experience In The Classroom

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Innovative Classroom Techniques

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.97.1 - 11.97.9



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Paper Authors


James Hanson Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. James Hanson is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He teaches mechanics courses for the freshman through senior levels including structural analysis and design. He is a strong advocate of hands-on learning and problem-based learning. He is a licensed professional engineer. He has also taught at Cornell University and Bucknell University.

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Patrick Brophy Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Dr. Pat Brophy is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He has thirty years of experience in teaching and research of psychology. He has developed and conducted interviews for a variety of corporate, government, and education clients. He is a licensed psychologist and has practiced clinical psychology throughout his career.

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

A Procedure for Gathering Experience from Practicing Engineers in order to Teach Experience in the Classroom Abstract Helping students transition from novice to expert requires imparting some level of experience. In order to teach experience in the undergraduate classroom, the instructor must have a record of that experience. For the purposes of this discussion, “experience” and “knowledge” have the same meaning. In some cases, that experience has been recorded in books and journals. Books and journals, however, often focus on low- to mid-level cognitive skills: knowledge, comprehension, application, and analysis. Thus, the experience that forms the basis of high-level cognitive skills, synthesis and evaluation, often exists only in the memories of practicing engineers. Therefore, in order to teach how practicing engineers have transitioned from novice to expert, instructors might need to gather experience directly from the practitioners.

It is important to note that much of the cognitive psychology literature focuses on obtaining information on how experts choose which experience or knowledge to use to make a decision (decision making). That is different from the techniques used to obtain the experiences as data (knowledge). Techniques for obtaining experiences include case study, critical incident, and question-and-answer. Each technique has advantages and limitations which are discussed.

The authors have used all three techniques in interviews with practicing structural engineers to elicit the tools used to evaluate the reasonableness of analysis and design results. Of the techniques, critical incident proved to be the most effective for eliciting this type of information. Interviews with 35 practicing structural engineers resulted in 67 specific incidents of errors discovered. Using the question-and-answer technique with the 35 engineers resulted in just 20 tools for evaluating results. This paper presents a detailed description of how the critical incident technique was implemented along with guidelines for adapting the technique for use by other researchers.

Introduction An important goal of the education process is to help students in the transition from novice to expert in one or more areas. Beginning with the research of Newell and Simon (1972), a considerable body of knowledge now exists describing how people transition from novice to expert status (Ashcraft, 2006; Solso, 1995). The major type of data used when studying problem solving is the “verbal protocol.” The verbal protocols provide a window into the minds of the experts. The verbalizations can then be used to troubleshoot the performance of students as they are led towards more expert performance (Bedard and Chi, 1993; Chi et al., 1988; Ericsson and Simon, 1980).

Rarely do students finish the transition as undergraduates. However, they can make great strides in that transition if provided the necessary information. The authors are currently investigating ways to help civil engineering students transition from novice to expert structural engineers. Their investigation focuses on teaching students how to evaluate the reasonableness of structural analysis and design results. Until now, the methods used to evaluate results were usually considered “experience” and were typically not taught in the classroom. Since the ways

Hanson, J., & Brophy, P. (2006, June), A Procedure For Gathering Experience From Practicing Engineers In Order To Teach Experience In The Classroom Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--616

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