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Characterizing Responses to Open-ended Questions In Heat Transfer Based on Everyday Situations

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Learning From Experts

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.322.1 - 22.322.17



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Paper Authors


Sarah E. Parikh Stanford University

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Sarah E. Parikh is a fifth year graduate student at Stanford University working on her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a focus on engineering education. She received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin in 2006 and received a M.S. in mechanical engineering with a focus on microscale heat transfer from Stanford University in 2008.

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Sheri Sheppard, P.E. Stanford University

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Sheri D. Sheppard, Ph.D., P.E., is the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Consulting Senior Scholar principally responsible for the Preparations for the Professions Program (PPP) engineering study, the results of which are in the report Educating Engineers: Designing for the Future of the Field. In addition, she is professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Besides teaching both undergraduate and graduate design-related classes at Stanford University, she conducts research on weld and solder-connect fatigue and impact failures, fracture mechanics, and applied finite element analysis. In 2003, Dr. Sheppard was named co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to form the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), along with faculty at the University of Washington, Colorado School of Mines, and Howard University.

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Kenneth E. Goodson Stanford University

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Kenneth Goodson is Professor and Vice Chair of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, where his group studies thermal phenomena in electronic nanostructures, energy conversion devices, and microfluidic heat exchangers. His 30+ Ph.D. alumni include professors at MIT, UC, Berkeley, UCLA, The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and The University of Michigan, as well as senior staff at Intel, AMD, and IBM. Goodson (MIT Ph.D. 1993) has co-authored nearly than 140 archival journal articles, 190 conference paper, 30 issued U.S. patents, two books, and eight book chapters. He received the Allan Kraus Thermal Management Medal from the ASME, the ONR Young Investigator Award, and the NSF Career Award. He received the Outstanding Reviewer Award from the ASME Journal of Heat Transfer, for which he served as an Associate Editor, as well as the Golden Reviewer Award from IEEE. He was a JSPS Visiting Professor at The Tokyo Institute of Technology and is Editor-in-Chief of Nanoscale and Microscale Thermophysical Engineering. His research has been recognized through keynote lectures at INTERPACK, ITHERM, SEMI-THERM, and Therminic as well as best paper awards at SEMI-THERM, SRC TECHCON, and the IEDM. Goodson is a founder and former CTO of Cooligy, which built microcoolers for computers (including the Apple G5) and was acquired in 2005 by Emerson.

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Characterizing Experts’ Analysis of Heat Transfer Problems Based on Everyday SituationsIntroductionAs educators, we are constantly trying to improve the learning experience of our students. Asresearchers, we aim to contribute to the understanding of the learning process. Thecharacterization of responses to open-ended questions in heat transfer presented in this papermay add to both of these goals. This characterization of what “expert” heat transferunderstanding looks like may help both educators and students to better guide novices to expert-like thinking. In addition this characterization adds to the research database on expertise.In this study, eight experts were given a series of written questions, based on everyday situations,and the responses were analyzed. The responses included a variety of approaches to answeringthese questions, as well as a variety of mistakes.MethodologyThe experts that participated in this study each had three years or more of post-bachelors study inheat transfer in addition to having passed a Ph.D. qualifying exam in heat transfer. The expertscompleted 12 to 15 written open-ended questions in addition to a brief survey describing theirspecific area of expertise and their current research project.Questions were chosen based on previous concept inventory work and common misconceptionsidentified by Olds (2004), Streveler (2008), and Prince (2010). In addition, comprehensivequestions addressing multiple modes of heat transfer and different key concepts were included tofurther characterize the experts’ approach to solving general heat transfer problems.Each question was coded for both the content of the response and the methods used tocommunicate the response such as equations, diagrams, and vocabulary. In addition, eachquestion included a 4 point likert-scale indicating the expert’s self-reported confidence in theiranswer. The choices were 1-guessing, 2-smart guessing, 3-confident, and 4-very confident.ResultsParticipants expressed different levels of confidence in their answers. While three participantsresponded with the same confidence level for every question, one participant changed thereported confidence level between 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s depending on the question.The open-ended questions intentionally lacked details, so that participants could arrive atdifferent correct answers depending on the assumptions made when reading and interpreting thequestion. However, very few assumptions were stated by the participants even though they wereprompted to articulate them in the instructions.In addition, the experts’ responses were not without mistakes. For example, one participantstated that “[it] has a large thermal mass due to the use of low heat capacity materials” whileanother participant stated “steady-state is only achieved once thermal equilibrium has beenestablished.” The types of mistakes ranged from possibly mixing up the effect of changes on asystem to pointing to possible misconceptions about fundamental concepts in heat transfer.Conclusions and SignificanceExperts’ responses varied in content, the methods of communicating, the reported levels ofconfidence, and the mistakes that were made in answering the questions.A promising area for future work involves comparing answers from experts (as described in thispaper) to those of novice heat transfer learners taking their first heat transfer course.ReferencesOlds, B. M., R.A. Streveler, R.L. Miller, and M.A. Nelson (2004). Preliminary Results from theDevelopment of a Concept Inventory in Thermal and Transport Science. American Society forEngineering Education Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.Prince, M. (2010). Personal Communication regarding Heat Transfer Concept Inventory.Streveler, R. A., T. A. Litzinger, R. L. Miller, P. S. Steif (2008). "Learning conceptualKnowledge in the Engineering Scinces: Overview and Future Research Directions." Journal ofEngineering Education 97(3): 279-294.

Parikh, S. E., & P.E., S. S., & Goodson, K. E. (2011, June), Characterizing Responses to Open-ended Questions In Heat Transfer Based on Everyday Situations Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17603

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