June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.369.1 - 22.369.9
Conceptual Understanding of Electrical Phenomena: Patterns of Error in Senior Electrical Engineering Students Problem SolvingThis paper describes a study that investigates electrical engineering students’ understanding offundamental concepts in their discipline. Five students were asked to think aloud as theyattempted to solve several simple problems involving concepts in low voltage electrical circuits.Participants’ solutions were analyzed using two conceptual frameworks. The first framework,mental modeling, identified the types of models that the students used to understand and explainelectrical phenomena: mathematical models, physical models, or analogies. The students’overwhelming choice in solving the problems was to look for an equation that they could applyto the situation. Very little attention was paid to the physical principles on which a solutionshould be based. The second framework was novice-expert differences in problemcategorization. Students tended to make the novice mistake of determining the problem typebased on the structure of the problem, rather than on the concepts involved. Having thus chosenthe wrong path, they tended to continue along it without recognizing their error and looking for abetter alternative. Fewer than 20% of the problems attempted were solved correctly. This raisesthe question of how well students are really learning the fundamental concepts needed to be ableto address and solve problems in the discipline of electrical engineering. There is a widespreadand pervasive belief that the proper way to teach basic electric circuits is by equationmanipulation, essentially mathematical modeling. The heavy reliance of the students in thisstudy on mathematical equations without well developed conceptual models of the physicalphenomena involved raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of this method of teaching.
Carnes, M. T., & Streveler, R. A. (2011, June), Conceptual Understanding of Electrical Phenomena: Patterns of Error in Senior Electrical Engineering Students' Problem Solving Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/17650
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