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Confidence Building In A Circuits Course

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.341.1 - 10.341.8



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Paper Authors

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Ilan Grave

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Confidence-Building in a Circuits Course Ilan Gravé Department of Physics and Engineering, Elizabethtown College


In this paper we look at how students develop professional confidence while learning circuit analysis. Usually a sophomore or a junior, the typical student takes a circuit analysis course after completing a series of basic science courses where rigor and details are strongly emphasized. So these students feel “comfortable” when they understand every line of a proof or a solution. Skipping even one comma, or using a shortcut, may hinder full understanding. The student’s ensuing sense of “discomfort” is a desirable and necessary stage, one that develops curiosity, scientific skepticism and a lifetime quest towards fundamental and basic understanding. In a circuit course, students are faced with a new perspective: to become proficient in analysis and creative in design and to account for an extraordinary number of circuit techniques and variations, students have to rely on shortcuts, on sketches of solutions and, in general, on a somewhat fuzzier approach. The accomplished and expert circuit analyst and designer often employs intuition, the trace of an idea or a solution to confidently produce a successful result. The solution to a circuit problem or design is sometimes finalized when just a quick sketch of the mental process is completed. In this paper we analyze this interesting dichotomy in the perception of acquisition of knowledge and in the enhancement of skills, as it develops from basic science courses to circuits courses. We suggest techniques and tools to build desired skills and confidence. We also discuss the possibility to quantify students’ reactions, attitudes and increased confidence, within a set of measurable performances and surveys.

Introduction: a daydream scene

Sometimes, hopefully not frequently, when I teach an introductory physics or engineering class in a quantitative subject such as mechanics, electromagnetism, or thermodynamics, I might feel the class is getting “lost”. Few students seem to follow and the rest of the class nervously looks at their watches or distractedly daydreams. Is this deja vu? Is this a familiar scenario? Do not worry; no great damage has been done. In the next class I will presumably start over from the point where the class disengaged and the lost bits of knowledge will be recovered.

Continuing this daydreaming of my own, suddenly another scene strikes my imagination: here I see one particular student, the one who was always interrupting in that introductory class three years ago, asking me to repeat the proof, or to scroll back to a previous slide. I was going too fast, he told me once, after dropping by to my office. Now this student is a senior, and I am sitting in the crowd listening to his/her Senior Project presentation. What a performance! How he (or she) presents the material smoothly, professionally and eloquently! Even those complex “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright @ 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Grave, I. (2005, June), Confidence Building In A Circuits Course Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14462

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