June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Educational Research and Methods
11.713.1 - 11.713.13
Identifying and Investigating Difficult Concepts in Engineering Mechanics and Electric Circuits
Two research questions motivated this study: “What important concepts in electric circuits and engineering mechanics do students find difficult to learn?” and “How can we describe students’ mental models of the concepts identified in question 1?” This paper discusses the process used to identify difficult concepts in engineering mechanics and electric circuits, the results of that identification process, and the results of interviews to uncover the mental models engineering students use to explain these concepts. This study, part of the Center for the Advancement in Engineering Education’s “Scholarship of Learning Engineering” element, builds on previous work in thermal and transport science and allows comparisons among difficult concepts in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering.
The study described in this paper extends ongoing work to identify difficult concepts in thermal and transport science  and measure students’ understanding of those concepts via a concept inventory [5, 6, 7]. The present work focuses on two fundamental areas of engineering: engineering mechanics (statics, strength of materials, and dynamics), and electric circuits, which are complementary to thermal and transport science. Thus the study was designed with the hope that commonalities might be found among difficult concepts in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. Indeed, our results suggest that commonalities do exist at a very fundamental level.
The paper is organized into three sections. The first two sections will discuss the theoretical framework, methodology, and results of each of the two research questions. This is followed by a section which discusses implications of this work.
What important concepts in electric circuits and engineering mechanics do students find difficult to learn?
We chose to use Delphi methodology to gather expert opinions about which concepts in electric circuits and in engineering mechanics that were both important and difficult to learn. The Delphi method is a technique that elicits, refines, and draws upon the collective opinion and expertise of a panel of experts . Delphi methodology has been used to elicit information and judgments from experts on anything from planning to problem-solving to decision making  and has been successfully used to in our prior work . Four features characterize the Delphi method: anonymity, iteration, feedback, and statistical group response .
Streveler, R., & Geist, M., & Ammerman, R., & Sulzbach, C., & Miller, R., & Olds, B., & Nelson, M. (2006, June), Identifying And Investigating Difficult Concepts In Engineering Mechanics And Electric Circuits Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/948
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