Asee peer logo

Framing Students' Learning Problems of Thermodynamics

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Thermodynamics, Fluids, and Heat Transfer I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Nihad Dukhan University of Detroit Mercy

visit author page

Nihad Dukhan is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he teaches courses in heat transfer, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and energy systems. His ongoing research interests include advance cooling technologies for high-power devices, with focus on metal foam as the cooling core, service learning and other engineering education pedagogies. He is a Fellow of American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a Fulbright scholar. His publications record includes over 130 referred papers. Dr. Dukhan earned his BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toledo.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Firm understanding of thermodynamics by graduating engineers is critical for addressing key current and future global issues, e.g. the looming energy crisis, pollution and global warming. Forms of alternative energy, and the efficiency of their conversion processes, are all governed by the laws of thermodynamics. Despite this immense importance, engineering students has been having difficulties in building good knowledge of thermodynamics, and in applying this knowledge in problem solving and thermal design. Through a careful reading of the pertinent literature, this paper explains the difficulties students have and provides classifications of the difficulties in order to better understand them. The difficulties are grouped under major headings in order to give an easy-to-see view of them. A thorough understanding of these difficulties, and their root causes, is vital for any instructional design aimed at mitigating these problems, and for enabling better learning of thermodynamics. The paper also summarizes the techniques that have been tried to solve these problems and the degree of success achieved. Generally speaking, there are two major classes of thermodynamic learning problems. First, students do not properly learn thermodynamic concepts and principles; second, students do not seem to recognize relevant concepts and principles, and combine them in order to solve thermodynamic problems. This paper argues that in order to design an edifying approach to improve students’ learning of thermodynamics, the root causes must be addressed.

Dukhan, N. (2016, June), Framing Students' Learning Problems of Thermodynamics Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26955

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: © 2016 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