June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
NSF Grantees Poster Session
Engineers are often faced with complex, unique, and challenging problems. Although a core activity of engineering is being able to solve complex problems efficiently and effectively, most engineering problems contain ambiguous elements. Engineers that are confident handling ambiguity are needed to solve real-world problems. Within the literature, engineering problems are typically characterized as either well-structured or ill-structured. Ambiguity, if it is mentioned at all in the problem characterization, goes undefined. Another issue is that ambiguity has only been identified as a structural element of the problem, ignoring how problem solvers may experience ambiguity differently in the same problem. Without a better understanding of ambiguity in problem solving, it is difficult to develop educational approaches that will teach students how to deal with ambiguity.
The goal of this project is to understand the different ways that students and practicing engineers experience ambiguity during problem solving. We aim to interview 20-30 senior civil engineering students and 20-30 practicing civil engineers on their experiences of ambiguity. Interviews will be conducted using artifact elicitation, in which each participant will bring a problem they have encountered which they consider to have been ambiguous. Interviews will be analyzed using phenomenography, leading to outcome spaces that define a hierarchy of ways that each group experiences ambiguity. These outcome spaces will then be used to develop a taxonomy of ambiguity that can be used in future studies of engineering problem solving. Ultimately, we aim to provide better tool kits, instructional materials, and methods for teaching students to solve ambiguous engineering problems.
Douglas, E. P., & Therriault, D. J., & Berry, M. B. (2019, June), Board 15: Understanding Ambiguity in Engineering Problem Solving Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32267
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