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Assessing the Effectiveness of Peer Instruction in Students’ Understanding of Electric Circuits Concepts

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Improvements in ECE Circuit Analysis

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Rene Alexander Soto Perez Purdue University, West Lafayette

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René Alexander Soto-Pérez received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, Colombia, in 1997 and 2013, respectively. He is currently an Assistant Professor with the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Universidad Nacional de Colombia. He has experience in the field of electrical machines and distribution’s systems. Currently, René is a Ph.D. student at Purdue University in the program of Engineering Education. His research interests include assessing students understanding of difficult concepts as well as the effectiveness of pedagogical approaches.

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Juan David Ortega Purdue University, West Lafayette, and Universidad EAFIT, Colombia Orcid 16x16

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Juan David Ortega Álvarez is an assistant professor at Universidad EAFIT (Medellin, Colombia). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Process Engineering from EAFIT and an M.S. in Process Engineering and Energy Technology from Hochschule Bremerhaven (Germany). Juan David is currently a doctoral candidate of the Engineering Education Program at Purdue University. Before his full-time appointment with EAFIT, he served as the engineering director at a Colombian chemical company for seven years. His research interests are focused on the practice and instruction of process design, simulation, and automatic control, as well as on faculty and institutional development through the scholarship of teaching and learning and educational research.

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Ruth A. Streveler Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ruth A. Streveler is a Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Dr. Streveler has been the Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator of ten grants funded by the US National Science Foundation. She has published articles in the Journal of Engineering Education and the International Journal of Engineering Education and has contributed to the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research. She has presented workshops to over 500 engineering faculty on four continents. Dr. Streveler’s primary research interests are investigating students’ understanding of difficult concepts in engineering science and helping engineering faculty conduct rigorous research in engineering education. In 2015, Dr. Streveler was inducted as an ASEE Fellow.

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Electric circuit analysis is a common topic in electrical engineering undergraduate programs worldwide. Although there is abundant educational literature on the adoption of innovative pedagogical strategies for teaching this topic, courses on electric circuits analysis are usually taught in a traditional class format. In this work, the authors describe the implementation of an active learning strategy, namely Peer Instruction, in an electric circuit analysis course offered at a large public university in Colombia. Peer Instruction is an instructional approach that fosters students’ collaboration to increase conceptual understanding. Students answer a conceptual question and then share their thoughts with a group of three to four classmates. The project included three sections of the course mentioned above. In two of the sections, students attended a traditional class format (51 students) while another section (with 15 students) implemented the Peer Instruction methodology. The research question driving this project was whether a Peer Instruction strategy would produce significantly higher learning gains than the traditional blackboard and chalk approach. A difference was determined using a quasi-experimental study comparing the learning gains of the students in the traditional sections (i.e., the control group) versus those of the students in the Peer Instruction section (i.e., the experimental group). The learning gains were measured by pre/post application of the DIRECT concept inventory. DIRECT is a validated test developed by Engelhardt and Beichner in 2004 at North Carolina State University, which focuses on basic concepts of DC circuits. One of the authors translated the DIRECT instrument into Spanish and, a confirmatory factor analysis was used to determine the reliability of the translated instrument. DIRECT was used to collect scores that were used later on to determine the Hake gain for each group. Then, a t-test allowed the authors to verify the significance of the difference between the Hake gains. In addition, students in the experimental group were asked to complete a survey on the difficulty of the course topics and the usefulness of the active learning activities implemented. Preliminary results suggest that the implementation of a Peer Instruction approach in an electric circuit analysis course improves the performance of students on the DIRECT test. Students in the experimental group identified time constants on first and second order circuits, and power analysis on AC circuits as the hardest topics to understand. In addition, students reported a perceived high usefulness of the Peer Instruction activities. In particular, they said that those activities helped them to understand the concepts discussed. Limitations of this project include the small size of the sample, particularly when accounting for the number of students who participated in both the pre and posttests, and the difference in the sizes between the two groups. On the other hand, possibilities for future work include assessing the impact that context variables can have on the effectiveness of Peer Instruction, and its implementation in different contexts.

Soto Perez, R. A., & Ortega, J. D., & Streveler, R. A. (2019, June), Assessing the Effectiveness of Peer Instruction in Students’ Understanding of Electric Circuits Concepts Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32121

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