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Episodes as a Discourse Analysis Framework to Examine Feedback in an Industrially Situated Virtual Laboratory Project

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Digital Technologies and Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.635.1 - 22.635.19



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Paper Authors


Debra Gilbuena Oregon State University

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Debra Gilbuena is a doctoral student in Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. She currently has research focused on student learning in virtual laboratories. Debra has an M.B.A. and M.S., as well as four years of industrial experience including a position in sensor development, an area in which she holds a patent. Debra was awarded the Teacher's Assistant of the Year Award by the College of Engineering at Oregon State University for her work as a Teacher's Assistant.

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Ben Uriel Sherrett Oregon State University

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Ben is studying the engineering design process at Oregon State University where he is pursuing a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. His secondary research interest is engineering education.

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Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

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Milo Koretsky is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He currently has research activity in areas related to thin film materials processing and engineering education. He is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. Dr. Koretsky is a six-time Intel Faculty Fellow and has won awards for his work in engineering education at the university and national levels.

Acknowledgements - The authors are grateful for support provided by the National Science Foundation’s Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Program, under Phase 2 grant DUE-0717905. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Episodes as a Discourse Analysis Framework to Examine Feedback in an Industrially Situated Virtual Laboratory ProjectThis study uses episodes as a discourse analysis framework to investigate feedback in anindustrially-situated virtual laboratory project. Feedback has been shown to be one of the mostimportant tools used by faculty to help students close the gap between actual and desiredperformance. The connection between feedback and student performance has been studied bothinside the classroom and in other student-faculty interactions. Forms of feedback vary widely inembodiment from results of multiple choice tests to one-on-one discussions between studentsand faculty. Several researchers have described the advantages of authentic, situated learningenvironments. One such advantage is to potentially increase transfer due to similarities betweenaspects of the educational project and an industrial project. A second advantage is that studentsmay value a situated, authentic project more highly than traditional coursework and thus be moremotivated and more willing to invest time and effort into learning. Studies of feedback insituated projects are uncommon and needed.This paper focuses on a case study of feedback provided to four-teams of students as part of anopen ended senior project. The 12 students are drawn from two cohorts in their final year ofundergraduate chemical, biological or environmental engineering at a large public university.Students were organized in groups and placed in the role of semiconductor process engineers,tasked with optimizing a virtual chemical vapor deposition reactor. This three week projectinvolved two meetings with an expert consultant, referred to as coaching sessions. The expertconsultant in this study is a faculty member with domain expertise. These coaching sessionswere perceived by students to be similar to a meeting with a boss or manager in industry. Thefirst coaching session for each team is explored in detail. The primary data source used was talk-aloud transcripts of the coaching sessions. Additional data sources were used for confirmationincluding: student and expert interviews, student surveys, and student work products.In this study, discourse in episodes was used to identify central themes in each of the fourcoaching sessions examined. While episodes have been used in other disciplines, they present arelatively new framework for engineering education research. A model for episodes is proposedwhich includes four components: surveying, probing, guiding and confirmation. Episodes are acombination of two or more of these components. Some episodes demonstrate each componentclearly, while in others the transitions between components are less clear. The themes identifiedwith the episodes framework were used to further explore the larger set of data surrounding thecoaching sessions. Results illustrate how these topic-themed episodes can help direct dataanalysis and provide a model for instructor development. In addition they suggest that thesituated feedback present in the virtual laboratory project resonates with students and impactsstudent performance. Students volunteer that they have applied concepts emphasized in thosefeedback sessions to projects in later coursework.This study is part a larger investigation on student learning in virtual laboratories.

Gilbuena, D., & Sherrett, B. U., & Koretsky, M. (2011, June), Episodes as a Discourse Analysis Framework to Examine Feedback in an Industrially Situated Virtual Laboratory Project Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17916

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