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Identifying And Remediating Deficiencies In Problem Solving In Statics

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Conference

2008 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Problem Solving and Misconceptions

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

18

Page Numbers

13.680.1 - 13.680.18

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/3286

Download Count

70

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Paper Authors

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Thomas Litzinger Pennsylvania State University

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Tom Litzinger is Director of the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State, where he has been on the faculty since 1985. His work in engineering education involves curricular reform, teaching and learning innovations, faculty development, and assessment. He teaches and conducts research in the areas of combustion and thermal sciences. He can be contacted at tal2@psu.edu.

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Carla Firetto Pennsylvania State University

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Carla Firetto is a PhD student in Educational Psychology at Penn State. Before working on her PhD, she earned a B.A. degree from Thiel College in Psychology and Sociology. Her primary research focus is the comprehension and integration of multiple texts. She can be contacted at cmf270@psu.edu.

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Lucas Passmore Pennsylvania State University

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Lucas Passmore is a PhD student and Instructor at Penn State. He received his B.S. in Engineering Science and Mechanics and has continued his studies at the University Park campus. He teaches introductory engineering courses and fundamental engineering mechanics courses. His primary research is in the semiconductor device physics field, and he is currently working on the incorporation of a design element to engineering technology strength of materials course.

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Peggy Van Meter Pennsylvania State University

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Jonna Kulikowich is a Professor of Education within the Educational Psychology program at Penn State where she has been on the faculty since 2003. Prior to joining Penn State she was an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Connecticut. Her research includes studies of the Academic development in mathematics and statistics, applied statistics, measurement of variables in reading research. She can be contacted at jmk35@psu.edu.

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Kelli Higley Pennsylvania State University

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Kelli Higley is a PhD student in Educational Psychology at Penn State. Before working on her PhD, she taught high school mathematics for 3 years. She has worked on diverse projects about learning, including research about discourse, reading, statistics, algebra, and now Statics. Her primary research focus remains improving the quality of mathematics teaching. She can be contacted at kjh262@psu.edu.

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Christine B. Masters Pennsylvania State University

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Christine B. Masters is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a PhD from Penn State in 1992. In addition to raising four children with her husband of 20 years, she has been teaching introductory mechanics courses for more than 10 years, training the department graduate teaching assistants for 7 years, coordinating the Engineering Science Honors Program undergraduate advising efforts for 5 years and currently participates in a variety of engineering educational research initiatives.

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Francesco Costanzo Pennsylvania State University

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Francesco Costanzo came to Penn State in 1995 and is an Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics. He earned a Ph.D. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Texas A&M University in 1993. His research interests include the mechanics of nanostructures, the dynamic crack propagation in thermoelastic materials, and engineering education.

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Gary L. Gray

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Gary L. Gray came to Penn State in 1994 and is an Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics. He earned a Ph.D. degree in Engineering Mechanics from the University of Wisconsin--Madison in 1993. His research interests include the mechanics of nanostructures, dynamics of mechanical systems, the application of dynamical systems theory, and engineering education.

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Stephen Turns Pennsylvania State University

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Stephen R. Turns, professor of mechanical engineering, joined the faculty of The Pennsylvania State University in 1979. His research interests include combustion-generated air pollution, other combustion-related topics, and engineering education pedagogy. He is the author of three student-centered textbooks in combustion and thermal-sciences. He received degrees in mechanical engineering from Penn State (B.S. in 1970), Wayne State University (M.S. in 1975), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D. in 1979). He can be contacted at srt@psu.edu.

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Jonna Kulikowich

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Jonna Kulikowich is a Professor of Education within the Educational Psychology program at Penn State where she has been on the faculty since 2003. Prior to joining Penn State she was an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Connecticut. Her research includes studies of the Academic development in mathematics and statistics, applied statistics, measurement of variables in reading research. She can be contacted at jmk35@psu.edu.

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

Identifying and Remediating Difficulties with Problem-solving in Statics

Abstract

The work described in this paper is part of a multi-year study that seeks to enhance students’ ability to create ‘models’ successfully as they solve problems in Statics. The ultimate goal of the study is to understand the major difficulties that students encounter as they learn to model during problem-solving in Statics and to create interventions to help them more quickly overcome those difficulties. In the first phase of the study, more than 300 students completed three inventories: math skills, spatial reasoning and statics concepts. The results from the inventories were used to identify clusters of students with common characteristics, and therefore, presumably common deficiencies in their problem solving in Statics. Students from each cluster were then invited to participate in think-aloud problem solving sessions to identify the weaknesses in their problem solving. Analysis of the think-aloud sessions identified a number of common issues in students’ knowledge and ability to create models, which are summarized in the paper. Based on these findings, the research team identified possible interventions to address the common issues. Two of these interventions were developed through a design experiments process in which they were tested with groups of up to 30 students, refined to enhance their effectiveness, and then re-tested. The interventions and the development process are described, and results from the final round of the design experiments are presented.

Introduction

The work described in this paper is part of an on-going study of problem solving in Statics. 1,2 The work is being done in Statics classes because it is one of the first places that engineering students encounter the engineering problem-solving process. In this study we are paying particular attention to the early steps in problem-solving when students ‘model’ the system being studied to create a set of equations describing the system. In Statics students typically read a problem statement and then create a model of the system, the free-body diagram, which contains all of the salient forces on the body. Then, based on the free-body diagram, they create a mathematical model of the system.

The current phase of the work is aimed at answering two main questions about the modeling processes: What are the major difficulties that students encounter when they perform modeling during problem-solving? What instructional interventions will address these problems and improve engineering students’ modeling during problem-solving? In the current phase of the work, interventions that are developed will be tested in a full-scale experimental design.

Clearly there are many different ways in which students can go wrong as they solve problems in Statics. They may, for example, have inadequate knowledge of the forces and moments for particular types of connections, an inability to visualize forces, or inadequate math skills. Our working hypothesis is that students will cluster into different groups based on their abilities and knowledge, and that these groups will demonstrate differing abilities to solve Statics problems.

Litzinger, T., & Firetto, C., & Passmore, L., & Van Meter, P., & Higley, K., & Masters, C. B., & Costanzo, F., & Gray, G. L., & Turns, S., & Kulikowich, J. (2008, June), Identifying And Remediating Deficiencies In Problem Solving In Statics Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3286

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