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Engineering Students' Perceptions of Workplace Problem Solving

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

CEED - Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.522.1 - 23.522.14



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Paper Authors


Rui Pan Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Rui(Celia) Pan is a Ph.D candidate in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She hold a M.S in Statistics and B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

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Johannes Strobel Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Johannes Strobel is Director of INSPIRE, Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning, and As- sistant Professor of engineering education and learning design and technology at Purdue University. NSF and several private foundations fund his research. His research and teaching focuses on policy of P-12 engineering, how to support teachers and students’ academic achievements through engineering learning, the measurement and support of change of ”habits of mind,” particularly in regards to sustainability and the use of cyber-infrastructure to sensitively and resourcefully provide access to and support learning.

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Engineering Students' Perceptions of Workplace Problem SolvingWorkplace problems are different from traditional textbook or classroom problemsbecause they are ill-structured and complex in nature. Research shows that engineersneed a wide range of knowledge and skills in order to succeed in workplace problemsolving. However, it is unclear whether engineering students, who will becomeprofessionals in the workplace after graduation, understand those challenges within realworld problems and possess the essential knowledge and skills required by problemsolving. Motivated by a desire to better understand students and prepare them for realworld engineering practice, this study aims to explore students’ perceptions of workplaceproblems solving.As previous research points out that educational programs such as Co-Op and internshipsprovide opportunities for students to observe engineering in the workplace and preparethem with workplace competencies, we believe students who have participated in suchexperiential learning programs should have a better understanding of workplace problems.So as an initial step to explore students’ understanding of real world problem solving, wedecided to focus this study on students with experiential learning experience.The research questions guiding this study are: 1) To what extent do engineering studentsperceive the differences between workplace problems and textbook problems? 2) Arestudents adequately prepared to solve workplace problems? 3) What do students gainfrom participating in experiential learning programs? In order to answer these questions,we first summarized the major characteristics of engineering workplace problems, byconducting a literature review. Then based on those findings, we developed a surveyinstrument to help us investigate students’ perceptions of workplace problems. Thesurvey we designed consists of a series of questions asking the respondents to rate howtheir academic course work prepared them for workplace problem solving, howworkplace problems differ from classroom problems, how difficult they feel it is to adjustthemselves to the workplace, etc. The study was conducted in a Midwestern university,which has four major engineering experiential learning programs: Co-Op, ServiceLearning, Global Engineering, and Internships. With the help of the program directors,the survey was already sent out to students who have participated in these four programs.Data collection will be finished at the beginning of October and we plan to usecorrelation analysis, ANOVA and regression analysis method to analyze the data. Wewill present our result in our draft paper in December.

Pan, R., & Strobel, J. (2013, June), Engineering Students' Perceptions of Workplace Problem Solving Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19536

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