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Assessing Effects of Challenge-Based Instruction on Conceptual Understanding In Heat Transfer

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.239.1 - 26.239.13



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Paper Authors


Christopher Cirenza Virginia Tech

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Christopher Cirenza is a second year graduate student at Virginia Tech pursuing his Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include designing and implementing workshops for the undergraduate heat transfer class, calibrating high-temperature heat flux sensors, and screen-printing inexpensive thin film heat flux sensors. He received his Bachelors degree in Physics at Davidson College in 2013.

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Thomas E. Diller Virginia Tech

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Assessing Effects of Challenge-Based Instruction on Conceptual Understanding in Heat TransferAbstract: Unlike disciplines such as mechanics, where the concepts being taught can be easilyseen in the movement of objects in everyday life, heat transfer lacks a visual element to guideconceptual understanding through observation. Traditional lecture style courses in the field ofheat transfer are limited in how well they can convey certain difficult concepts. While theystress important ideas such as setting up control volumes and energy balances, they do not do agood job helping students distinguish between the three modes of heat transfer in real worldproblems (conduction, convection, and radiation), nor can they offer physical representations ofproblems to allow students to feel heat transfer taking place in different situations. This resultsin a lack of understanding of the underlying concepts of heat transfer, which is vital as it helpsbuild a foundation from which to work and advance one’s thinking. As a way of overcoming this obstacle, challenge-based workshops were designed andgiven to a junior level heat transfer class at Virginia Tech. The hands-on workshops allowed thestudents to feel and observe heat transfer via the physical testing apparatus and heat flux andtemperature sensors that provided real-time data. These instruments, coupled with the open-ended, challenge-based pedagogy, provided opportunities for students to explore the differencesbetween heat and temperature. This study examines the effectiveness of these hands-on, challenge-based workshops toimprove junior-level heat transfer students’ conceptual understanding of heat and temperature.The conceptual knowledge of the students was assessed through a concept inventory test given atboth the beginning and the end of the course. These results were compared to those of a controlgroup of students who took the traditional lecture class without the workshops. The results from the concept inventory yield a significant difference between the totalscores of the two groups (experimental and control) as well as certain individual questions. Thequestions showing significant improvement can be linked directly to workshops conveying theconcepts stressed by those questions and include: the difference between heat flow and feeling atemperature difference, effect of surface properties on thermal radiation, and heat transfer ininternal flow. Future work entails (i) identifying the concepts in heat transfer that are mostimportant for students to grasp in order to understand the fundamentals of the discipline and (ii)investigating additional ways to evaluate students’ conceptual knowledge. The workshops willbe restructured to best convey the concepts in a manner easily understood by someone with littleor no experience in the field of heat transfer.

Cirenza, C., & Diller, T. E. (2015, June), Assessing Effects of Challenge-Based Instruction on Conceptual Understanding In Heat Transfer Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23578

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