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Characterization of Iterative Model Development in a Complex, Authentic Engineering Task

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

ERM Potpourri

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.287.1 - 23.287.19



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Paper Authors

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Erick Jacob Nefcy Oregon State University


Audrey Briggs Champagne University at Albany, SUNY


Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

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Milo Koretsky is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He currently has research activity in areas related to thin film materials processing and engineering education. He is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. Koretsky is a six-time Intel Faculty Fellow and has won awards for his work in engineering education at the university and national levels.

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Characterization of Iterative Model Development in a Complex, Authentic Engineering TaskModel development has been identified as a core component in science and engineering practice.Studies of model development in practice have shown this process to include iterative cycles ofcreation, use, evaluation and revision. However, authentic modeling practices are difficult toreplicate in the school environment. To facilitate students’ authentic practice of these skills wehave developed a learning system based on virtual laboratories. In this learning system, studentteams take on the role of process development engineers. They are tasked with finding suitableinput parameters to be released to high volume manufacturing through experiments that arecompleted virtually. When students perform experiments, the lower cognitive demand affordsthem the opportunity to build a rich experimental design. While not instructed to do so, moststudent teams inevitably resort to modeling as a tool to progress towards completion.Previously, we have presented a method to characterize the modeling actions of student teamstermed Model Maps. Model Maps provide a graphical representation of student teams’ modeldevelopment as they proceed through the task. In this paper, we explore two teams’ iterativemodel development utilizing Model Maps generated from think aloud transcripts. Model Mapsare used to identify specific model components as they reoccur over the project. Theseoccurrences are identified in the transcripts and then coded with respect to the stage it occupiedin the cycle of model development (creation, use, evaluation, revision, or confirmation). Studentdiscourse immediately prior to and during the discussion of each occurrence is analyzed toinform what motivated the team to address that component, and how their conception changedfrom previous occurrences.For example, one team engaged the model component “Arrhenius equation” in four distinctoccurrences that included a total of seven iterative steps. While exploring the input parametertemperature, the team identified the Arrhenius equation as potentially relevant (creation), butexpressed significant doubt with respect to its applicability to a real world process (evaluation).As the team progressed, they revisited (evaluate and revise) the Arrhenius equation as a part ofan integrated mathematical model to help predict values for input parameters. Later, in the effortto revise their integrated mathematical model, the team considered two methods for generating avalue for the activation energy: performing a search of the literature or empirically determining itthrough the use of the Arrhenius equation (evaluation). The decision to use the empiricalapproach was reached during a meeting with their coach and the Arrhenius equation was revisedand used for this purpose (revision and use). Overall, this team’s motivation to use and revisethis model component was based on different contexts as the task unfolded, each case becomingmore specific. While the authentic engineering task has elicited iterative modeling behavior inboth teams, the details of how that understanding “evolved” are unique to the path each teamtook and how they made sense of the consequent experimental data that they generated.

Nefcy, E. J., & Champagne, A. B., & Koretsky, M. (2013, June), Characterization of Iterative Model Development in a Complex, Authentic Engineering Task Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19301

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