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Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills Through The Incorporation Of An Open Ended And Ill Defined Project In A Technical Core Course

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.260.1 - 3.260.6

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Paper Authors

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James P. Solti

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James M., Jr. Greer

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

Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills Through the Incorporation of an Open-Ended and Ill-Defined Project in a Technical Core Course

James P. Solti and James M. Greer, Jr. Department of Engineering Mechanics United States Air Force Academy


Engineering Mechanics 200 (EM 200) - Fundamentals of Mechanics is an introductory “core” course which all students are required to complete prior to the start of their fifth semester at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA). This course offers an integrated introduction to the Mechanics of Materials and to Statics. The course is not a preparatory course for engineers in which students are asked to learn fundamental engineering principles for a future semester (only about 10% of the cadets taking EM 200 will actually major in engineering). Rather, course objectives are focused on the development of “higher-order cognitive skills” such as problem solving and critical thinking. Additional objectives are aimed at improving the student’s ability to visualize and understand the world around them. Figure 1 illustrates the four cornerstones of EM 200.

Problem Critical Solving Thinking


Visualization Understanding

Figure 1. EM 200 and the development of problem solving skills

To facilitate the development of these skills, this semester (Fall 1997) EM 200 has introduced a “real-life ill-defined” problem into the syllabus. The effects of introducing this type of problem into a non-engineering major's class, on both instructors and students, are described.

Solti, J. P., & Greer, J. M. J. (1998, June), Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills Through The Incorporation Of An Open Ended And Ill Defined Project In A Technical Core Course Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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