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Enhancing Understanding Through On Line Discussions

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.458.1 - 6.458.11

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Teresa Larkin-Hein

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

Session 2793

Enhancing Understanding Through On-line Discussions Teresa Larkin-Hein American University Washington, DC


The use of the computer and other technologies (i.e. the internet, world-wide web, etc.) are currently being aggressively used by many educators as tools in the learning process. This paper will report on an on-going research study at American University designed to address the role of student understanding in physics using an on-line discussion group format. In terms of gauging student understanding in physics, some critical questions are raised. (1) What factors serve to motivate students to participate in on-line discussions outside of class? (2) Can student motivation and performance be linked to students’ individual learning styles? (3) Can student participation in on-line discussions be linked to enhanced understanding? To address these questions, formal learning style assessment data along with results from a survey conducted in an introductory course for non-majors during the 2000 academic year will be shared.

I. Introduction

A growing number of technology-based educational tools currently exist within the domains of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) education. In addition, the use of educational technologies is growing both in and out of the classroom and laboratory. Certainly technology has the potential to serve as a powerful tool to improve the educational process for students as well as teachers 1. However, educational technology is only as good as the content it supports 2.

Many traditional teaching methodologies have clearly been shown to put students in the role of passive rather than active learning 3. Traditional instructional methods have also been shown to be inadequate in terms of promoting deep learning and long-term retention of important physics concepts. The explosion in the availability of technological tools is literally forcing physics as well as other SMET educators to change the way they teach. These changes, however, must involve much more than simply implementing technology for technology’s sake. The recent advances in computer-based technologies and their use in SMET education provides an opportunity for educators to take a critical look at how these tools are being integrated into the classroom and laboratory. Research has shown that these technological tools can only be effective in promoting student understanding if used in a pedagogically sound way 4. Essential to note is the fact that the integration of computer-based technologies into the classroom and laboratory is not enough. Strategies must be employed which are designed to assess student understanding following the use of any new type of learning tool, computer-based or otherwise. Furthermore, effective strategies must be developed and implemented to assess overall student learning gains.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Larkin-Hein, T. (2001, June), Enhancing Understanding Through On Line Discussions Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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: © 2001 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