July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Electrical and Computer
The introduction of abstract theoretical concepts in undergraduate engineering courses, such as in electric circuit analyses, has been perceived by students to be challenging due to their limited ability to verbalize their knowledge. Researchers argue that proper engineering “intellectual behavior” must be developed to the point where students become competent problem solvers with an ability to use learned skills in analogous contexts, that is, in this case, from learning electric circuit concepts to their application in real-world situations. The purpose of this study is to explore students’ ability to justify real-world electrical scenarios and determine ill-conceived circuit concepts associated with them by answering the following questions: How do students articulate their learned concepts in electric circuits? How do students use their learning of electric circuits in explaining real-world electrical phenomena? This study used a qualitative approach to inquiry. Five (5) male junior and senior electrical engineering students who had taken at least two electric circuit courses participated in this study. The participants were asked open-ended questions via think-aloud protocol to explain real-world electrical incidents. They were expected to verbalize their thought process and learning of circuit concepts. The analysis was guided by the skills aspect of the engineering habits of mind framework, where students use mental models and tools necessary to make educated choices and use approaches to thinking when solving problems in similar or new contexts. All participants generally used mental tools associated with electric circuit theory, which indicated that students use mathematical models and circuit diagrams in analyzing and explaining real-world electrical phenomena. Participants showed fair use of mental tools to support their explanation. In contrast, others showed inaccuracies in the understanding of electric circuit concepts as it relates to the physical phenomena they were presented with, which may or may not indicate a misconception. So, the findings of this study call for further investigation of potential misconceptions, which can be mitigated when the use of computational and observational skills are constantly stimulated, practiced, and integrated holistically in the instruction, especially when introductory engineering concepts are taught. We suggest that engineering practitioners and educators should also exercise the use of mental models and tools by presenting and tackling more ill-defined real-world problems so that there is a natural transference of learning and practice toward the students. This work provides an opportunity for educators, curriculum designers, and researchers in this field to innovate instructional design and create methodologies to interrogate, pinpoint, and remedy potential misconceptions, which may be largely influenced by students being unable to have a tangible outlet for which they can apply their learning of abstract and intangible engineering concepts.
Espera, A. H., & Pitterson, N. P. (2021, July), Exploring Students’ Learning of Electric Circuits in Real-world Context Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37148
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