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Application Of Object Scaffolding To Develop A Hands On, Problem Centered, And Project Based Freshman Matlab® Course

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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

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.219.1 - 11.219.9



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Paper Authors

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Robin Hensel West Virginia University

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Ye Sun West Virginia University

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

Application of Object Scaffolding to Develop A Hands-On, Problem-Centered, and Project-Based Freshman MATLAB® Course


An application of object scaffold pedagogy to the teaching of MATLAB® to freshman engineering students is being implemented as part of a problem-centered course during the spring 2006 semester. Object scaffolding has been proposed as a pedagogical technique in which student learning is anchored by a conceptual map resultant from previous learning and in which students are given necessary new information at their point of need.1 The primary tenants of the scaffolding learning theory were used in the development of a hands-on, problem-centered and project-based freshman MATLAB® course.

The newly developed course is the second in a two-course sequence designed for all freshmen engineering students as part of the common freshman engineering experience. Previously, the two course sequence consisted of a “problem-solving and design” course, followed by a “programming” course. The two-course sequence has been redesigned to carry the unifying concept of the problem-solving and design process throughout both semesters. MATLAB® is taught by presenting students with problems that would require the use of a mathematical programming tool to reach a solution. In this scenario, students, working in teams, are motivated to learn the syntax and structure of the language by the need to solve problems, and therefore, view the software as a problem-solving tool. Evidence of content mastery is assessed, primarily, through evaluation of the quality of student projects.

The application of the scaffolding pedagogy in the “new” course is evidenced by: (1) presenting programming concepts and MATLAB® within a technical problem solving context; (2) fostering increased cognitive development through collaborative interaction among students; (3) building on familiar concepts by beginning with scalar operations, then moving to vector and array operations; and (4) using a text designed to support this pedagogical method.


Engineering majors at West Virginia University (WVU), take three engineering courses as part of a common freshman year experience. A one-credit hour engineering orientation course and a two-credit hour engineering problem-solving course are taken in the first semester and a second, three-credit hour, engineering problem solving course is taken during the second semester. The focus of this paper is the re-design of the second semester engineering course from a traditional programming course to a hands-on, problem-centered and project-based technical problem- solving course which uses software as a problem-solving tool. The new course is the result of identifying desired learning outcomes, examining the WVU freshman program, as well as the first year engineering programs of other institutions, and reviewing educational literature, ABET guidelines, and “best practice” articles.

Hensel, R., & Sun, Y. (2006, June), Application Of Object Scaffolding To Develop A Hands On, Problem Centered, And Project Based Freshman Matlab® Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1307

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