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Improvements in Undergraduate Electromagnetism Courses by Designing Experiences of Inquiry and Reflection

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Technical Session 1

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Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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Neelam Prabhu Gaunkar Prabhu Gaunkar Iowa State University


Mani Mina Iowa State University

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Mani Mina is with the department of Industrial Design and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. He has been working on better understanding of students' learning and aspects of technological and engineering philosophy and literacy. In particular how such literacy and competency are reflected in curricular and student activities. His interests also include Design and Engineering, the human side of engineering, new ways of teaching engineering in particular Electromagnetism and other classes that are mathematically driven. His research and activities also include on avenues to connect Product Design and Engineering Education in a synergetic way.

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Undergraduate level electromagnetism courses are typically introduced in the junior year or once students have received formal training in vector calculus. However, a major part of the course involves physics-based concepts that relate to our everyday interactions with electronic devices. These concepts can be easily understood without high emphasis on mathematical formulation. However, it has been observed that many students treat the course as a purely mathematical exercise and fail to see connections between physical concepts and mathematical equations.

To address the connectivity gap between the physics-based concepts and mathematical formulation, reflection-based activities [1,2] were introduced in two electromagnetism courses. It is expected that reflective activities will encourage students to think about their learning and develop deeper connections between the physical concepts and the medium of communication. In one course mathematical formulations were emphasize along with the concepts while the other course emphasized the concepts without the rigor of vector calculus. Comparable reflective activities were provided in both the classes at different intervals during the semester. Student reflections were then analyzed using a phenomenological approach [3,4], categorizing student’s learning over the course of the semester.

Through this study several questions will be addressed. “Are reflective practices effective in bridging the gap between physics concepts and abstract mathematical formulation?” and “Can improved connectivity lead to improvements in the student’s learning and perception of electromagnetism?” and “What should we emphasise, concepts or formulation or both?”

[1]. Adams, Robin S., Jennifer Turns, and Cynthia J. Atman. "Educating effective engineering designers: The role of reflective practice." Design studies 24, no. 3 (2003): 275-294.

[2]. Mina, Mani, Iraj Omidvar, and Kathleen Knott. "Learning to think critically to solve engineering problems: Revisiting John Dewey’s ideas for evaluating engineering education." Retrieved January 5 (2003): 2004.

[3]. Entwistle, Noel. "Introduction: Phenomenography in higher education." Higher Education Research & Development 16, no. 2 (1997): 127-134.

[4]. Walsh, Eleanor. "Phenomenographic analysis of interview transcripts." Phenomenography (2000): 19-33.

Prabhu Gaunkar, N., & Mina, M. (2018, June), Improvements in Undergraduate Electromagnetism Courses by Designing Experiences of Inquiry and Reflection Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30628

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