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Effects Of Conceptual Understanding, Math And Visualization Skills On Problem Solving In Statics

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Conference

2007 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Cognitive and Motivational Issues in Student Performance I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

11

Page Numbers

12.586.1 - 12.586.11

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/2382

Download Count

87

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Paper Authors

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Kelli Higley Pennsylvania State University

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Kelli Higley is a PhD student in Educational Psychology at Penn State. Before working on her PhD, she taught high school mathematics for 3 years. She has worked on diverse projects about learning, including research about discourse, reading, statistics, algebra, and now Statics. Her primary research focus remains improving the quality of mathematics teaching. She can be contacted at kjh262@psu.edu.

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Thomas Litzinger Pennsylvania State University

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Tom Litzinger is Director of the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State, where he has been on the faculty since 1985. His work in engineering education involves curricular reform, teaching and learning innovations, faculty development, and assessment. He teaches and conducts research in the areas of combustion and thermal sciences. He can be contacted at tal2@psu.edu.

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Peggy Van Meter Pennsylvania State University

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Peggy Van Meter is an Associate Professor of Education within the Educational Psychology program at Penn State where she has been on the faculty since 1996. Her research includes studies of the strategic and meta-cognitive processes that learners use to integrate multiple representations and acquire knowledge that will transfer and be useful in problem solving. She can be contacted at pnv1@psu.edu.

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Christine B. Masters Pennsylvania State University

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Christine B. Masters is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State. She received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1987 and a Ph.D. in Engineering Science and Mechanics in 1992, both from Penn State. In addition to raising four children with her husband of 20 years, she teaches introductory mechanics courses, trains the department graduate teaching assistants, coordinates the Engineering Science Honors Program undergraduate advising efforts and participates in a variety of engineering educational initiatives such as the MechANEX project (software and lab experiment development for statics).

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Jonna Kulikowich Pennsylvania State University

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Jonna Kulikowich is a Professor of Education within the Educational Psychology program at Penn State where she has been on the faculty since 2003. Prior to joining Penn State she was an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Connecticut. Her research includes studies of the Academic development in mathematics and statistics, applies statistics, measurement of variables in reading research. She can be contacted at jmk35@psu.edu.

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

Effects of Conceptual Understanding, Math and Visualization Skills on Problem-solving in Statics

Introduction

Although non-technical skills are increasingly important to successful engineering careers in the global marketplace of today, problem-solving remains a critical skill for most young engineers. In many cases successfully solving problems requires engineers to use their analytical skills. The central importance of problem-solving and analytical skills in engineering motivates the work presented in this paper, which is the first phase of a program aimed at answering two main questions: What are the major difficulties that students encounter when they perform modeling during problem-solving? What are the necessary components of instructional interventions to improve engineering students’ modeling during problem-solving?

The work is being done in Statics classes because this is one of the first places that engineering students encounter the engineering problem-solving process. In this study we are paying particular attention to the early steps in problem-solving when students ‘model’ the system being studied to create a set of equations describing the system. In Statics students typically read a problem statement and then create a model of the system, the free body diagram, that contains all of the salient forces on the body. Then, based on the free body diagram, they create a mathematical model of the system.

Clearly there are many different ways in which students can go wrong as they solve problems in Statics. They may, for example, have inadequate knowledge of the forces and moments for particular types of joints, an inability to visualize forces, or inadequate math skills. Our working hypothesis is that students will cluster into different groups based on their abilities and knowledge, and that these groups will demonstrate differing abilities to solve Statics problems. Therefore, improving the problem-solving skills of these groups will require different interventions.

The work presented in this paper is designed to answer two research questions: can such clusters be identified, and if so, can they be used to identify the specific needs of the students in those clusters? The results presented include a summary of a cluster analysis, which did identify statistically significant clusters, and a comparison of the characteristics of the best and worst performing clusters to illustrate how the data can be used to identify the specific needs of the students in a cluster.

Relationship to Previous Work

This study has been influenced by a number of studies of problem-solving in general and of problem-solving in engineering specifically. The relationship to past work was discussed at some length in a previous paper1 and therefore it is only briefly summarized here. Three subsets of the literature have had the most influence on our work: Problem-solving processes, translations between symbol systems, and domain knowledge.

Higley, K., & Litzinger, T., & Van Meter, P., & Masters, C. B., & Kulikowich, J. (2007, June), Effects Of Conceptual Understanding, Math And Visualization Skills On Problem Solving In Statics Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2382

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015