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Improving Students’ Ability To Model During Problem Solving In Statics

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Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Student Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

17

Page Numbers

14.712.1 - 14.712.17

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/4709

Download Count

24

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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 was selected as a Fellow of ASEE in 2008. He can be contacted at tal2@psu.edu.

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Peggy Van Meter Pennsylvania State University

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Peggy Van Meter is an Associate Professor of Education within the Educational Psychology program at Penn State where she has been on the faculty since 1996. Her research includes studies of the strategic and meta-cognitive processes that learners use to integrate multiple representations and acquire knowledge that will transfer and be useful in problem solving. She can be contacted at pnv1@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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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.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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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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Sarah Zappe Pennsylvania State University

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Sarah E. Zappe is Research Associate and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support for the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at The Pennsylvania State University. Her expertise and research interests relate to the use of think-aloud methodologies to elicit cognitive processes and strategies in assessment and related tasks. In her position, Dr. Zappe is responsible for supporting curricular assessment and developing instructional support programs for faculty and teaching assistants in the College of Engineering. She can be contacted at ser163@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

Improving Students’ Ability to Model during Problem-Solving in Statics

Introduction

In this paper, we report the results of an educational intervention designed to improve students’ ability to create models as part of the engineering problem-solving process in Statics. Statics was selected for this study because it is often the first course in which students learn to apply an engineering problem-solving method. In this study, we focus on the early steps in problem- solving when students model the system being studied to create a set of equations describing the system. The overall goal of the current study was to design and test an intervention to help students better understand the concepts involved in solving these problems.

The intervention we describe here was developed as part of an on-going program of research designed to better understand the major difficulties that students encounter as they learn to develop and apply models to solve Statics problems. In the first phase of this research,1 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 invited to participate in think-aloud problem-solving sessions to identify the weaknesses in their problem-solving. Although the think-aloud analyses did not reveal differences among the clusters of students, it did uncover differences in the problem-solving processes used by separate groups of successful and unsuccessful students.2 Most notably, successful students were far more likely to generate self-explanations during problem-solving in comparison to unsuccessful students. A self-explanation is strategy that helps the learner to access prior knowledge3 and connect this knowledge to new instances.4 The findings of our think-aloud study are consistent with other research, which has shown that college students who self-explain acquire more knowledge of a problem-solving procedure5 and generate better problem solutions6 than do students who do not generate explanations.

Based on these findings, the research team developed an intervention in which students were prompted to generate self-explanations when solving problems from Statics. The version of the intervention tested in this study was developed using an iterative process in which the interventions were tested, refined to enhance their effectiveness, and then re-tested.2 The interventions focused on having students reason through, or self-explain, the reaction forces and couples present at a given connection and then apply this reasoning to select the correct model of a particular support or the overall free-body diagram of the system. In addition, a pre/post- assessment was developed to test the effectiveness of the interventions. This paper reports results from the initial full-scale testing of the effectiveness of the intervention.

Relationship to Previous Work

This study has been influenced by a number of studies of problem-solving in general and of problem-solving in engineering specifically. The relationship to past work was discussed at some length in a previous paper7 and therefore it is only briefly summarized here. Three subsets of the literature have had the most influence on our work: problem-solving processes, translations between symbol systems, and domain knowledge.

Litzinger, T., & Van Meter, P., & Firetto, C., & Passmore, L., & Masters, C. B., & Turns, S., & Zappe, S. (2009, June), Improving Students’ Ability To Model During Problem Solving In Statics Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/4709

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