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Engineering Students’ Conceptions Of Heat And Temperature Pre And Post Thermodynamics Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.578.1 - 11.578.9



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Paper Authors


Dennis Robbins Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY

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Dennis M. Robbins is Assistant Professor in the Science Department of the Borough of Manhattan Community College. A graduate of Teachers College Columbia University his research interests include topics in the learning and teaching of science. His publications appear in The Physics Teacher, The Journal of Chemical Education and The American Biology Teacher.

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Mahmoud Ardebili Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY

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Mahmoud Ardebili, Ph.D., PE. is Associate Professor and Coordinator of Engineering Science Program at Borough of Manhattan Community College. He teaches Engineering Graphics, Thermodynamics, and Freshman Design classes. His research interests include computational fluid dynamics, alternatively fueled vehicles and engineering education.

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

Engineering Students’ Conceptions of Heat and Temperature Pre and Post Thermodynamics Course


During the last several decades research-based methods of teaching predicated on theories of student learning have risen to the forefront of undergraduate science and engineering education reform1. The term “scientific teaching” has been used to express the nature of these methods of instruction. “Scientific teaching,” as supporters describe it “involves active learning strategies to engage students in the process of science and teaching methods that have been systematically tested and shown to reach diverse students2.” An important feature of “scientific teaching” is research on students’ understanding of various scientific concepts. Research suggests that students often have systematic “alternative” conceptions that might be particularly incorporated in curricular materials3. Physics Education Research (PER) has identified many of these conceptions and the research methods used to discover students’ alternative understanding of topics in physics4.

In this study we use PER inspired methods to evaluate physics instruction and assesses undergraduate engineering students’ understanding of certain topics in thermal physics. PER documents students’ difficulties with the conceptions of heat and temperature5, 6, 7. Much of this research suggests that many students hold an intuitive belief about the conceptual relationship of heat (Q) and temperature (T) which might be represented by this proportionality:

Q∝T As opposed to the established physics principle that heat transfer is proportional to the change in temperature:

Q ∝ ∆T Many research-based conceptual diagnostic surveys are openly available for assessing learning in physics. The Heat and Temperature and Conceptual Evaluation (HTCE) by Thornton and Sokoloff8, 9 was selected for the questions accessible language level and for its relative ease of use and analysis. The HTCE is a valid and reliable 28-item survey of temperature and heat transfer concepts using multiple choice questions containing distractors. Diagnostic surveys like the HTCE are generally used as a pre-instruction (before course) and post-instruction (after course) measurements of the state of students’ knowledge and gain in conceptual understanding in introductory physics courses. In this study the preparedness (pretest) of students for an engineering course in thermodynamics is measured by using the results of the HCTE. Later the HCTE is used to assess the conceptual development course of temperature and heat transfer ideas after completing a

Robbins, D., & Ardebili, M. (2006, June), Engineering Students’ Conceptions Of Heat And Temperature Pre And Post Thermodynamics Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--406

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