June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
23.407.1 - 23.407.10
Developing Threshold Conception in StaticsThe study and practice of engineering involves complex problem solving which requires theapplication and integration of fundamental principles of mathematics and science. Thedevelopment of the skill needed to do this effectively and efficiently is a journey from novice toexpert that begins in the undergraduate curriculum. The more analytical aspects of complexproblem solving are often introduced in statics courses.Referring to the example of a computer programming class in their book Overcoming Barriers toStudent Understanding: Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge, Meyer and Landaccurately summarize what happens as, “…students may grasp the concepts of class, objects,tables, arrays and recursion, but they may not appreciate the deeper threshold conception, theunderlying „game‟ as it were, of the interaction of all these elements in a process of ever-increasing complexity.” In a typical statics class, my experience has been that 1 of every 5students demonstrates a strong ability to solve complex problems, 1 of every 5 studentsdemonstrates a strong inability, and the rest fall somewhere in between. In an effort to facilitatean increase in the number of students demonstrating a strong ability to solve complex problems, Iinstituted teaching techniques to support knowledge organization and the development ofmetacognitive skills.Teamwork, in-class problem solving, and “think-alouds” are three strategies with strongindicators of their utility in supporting learning. These strategies were combined throughout thecourse. Student work was collected to assess the development of a deeper threshold conceptionof engineering problem solving. Students were also asked to assess their own progress in awritten survey at the end of the semester. This paper discusses the development of this projectand its execution, assessment, and preliminary outcomes during the first semester of itsimplementation.
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