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Evaluation Of A Simulation And Problem Based Learning Design Project Using Constructed Knowledge Mapping

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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

6.473.1 - 6.473.12

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Thomas Harmon

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Glenn Burks

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Eva Baker

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Gregory Chung

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

Session 3530

Evaluation of a Simulation and Problem-Based Learning Design Project Using Constructed Knowledge Mapping

Thomas C. Harmon, Glenn A. Burks Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, UCLA

Greg K.W.K. Chung, Eva L. Baker Graduate School of Education and Information Studies National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, Student Testing (CRESST) UCLA.


This work describes results from an educational evaluation of an environmental engineering capstone course in which the design project comprised a sophisticated simulation-driven task. The simulation software is called Interactive Site Investigation Software (ISIS), an object- oriented (Java-based) user’s interface through which students collect data describing a subsurface contamination scenario associated with a hazardous waste site. ISIS is intended to serve as a problem-based learning environment for helping students to gain a deeper understanding of theory-based course content while accelerating their exposure to the practical aspects of an engineering design project. To evaluate the extent to which the ISIS is successful in this endeavor, we assessed student outcomes using constructed response knowledge maps (concept maps). The expert criterion map was devised by the instructor and teaching assistant for the course, and included 17 concepts to be linked by 4 relationships. Students were given a tutorial on the mapping exercise, then asked to perform the exercise prior to the start of the ISIS project, and again after the completion of the 5-week project. The class completed both the pretest and posttest mapping exercises in a controlled environment. A list of all student map propositions (192 of a possible 1088) was compiled and each was assigned a score by the instructor (illogical/impossible = 0; pragmatic understanding = 1; scientific understanding = 2; highly principled, scientific understanding = 3). Student maps were scored in terms of proposition quality. Overall, the results suggest that students did acquire knowledge over the course of the ISIS activity. The students’ posttest content score was higher than the pretest, but this difference was not significant. However, it was determined that students introduced significantly more deep propositions in their posttest knowledge map compared to their pretest knowledge map. The students also introduced a significant number of posttest deep propositions that were not part of the expert criterion, suggesting that the ISIS activity promoted learning beyond the scope envisioned by the instructor.

I. Introduction

In this study we examined the implementation of a capstone course in civil engineering on the topic of hazardous waste site assessment. Student teams assumed the role of consultants contracted to carry out a hazardous waste site investigation of an abandoned airfield. The course in this study differed from typical capstone courses in two important ways. First, simulation software was developed to support the site investigation. Second, this course was the subject of

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

Harmon, T., & Burks, G., & Baker, E., & Chung, G. (2001, June), Evaluation Of A Simulation And Problem Based Learning Design Project Using Constructed Knowledge Mapping Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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