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Integration of Experiential Learning to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Deaf and Hard of Hearing STEM Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.786.1 - 24.786.13



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Paper Authors


Andres L. Carrano Auburn University

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Andres Carrano is the Philpott WestPoint Stevens Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Auburn University in Alabama. Prior to this appointment, he was on the faculty of engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he founded and directed the Toyota Production Systems Laboratory.

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Wendy A. Dannels Rochester Institute of Technology (NTID)

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Wendy A. Dannels is a member of the instructional faculty in Engineering Studies at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), one of nine colleges at Rochester Institute of Technology. Prior to joining NTID in 2008 as full-time Lecturer, Dannels worked for several engineering corporations for over seventeen years including ten years in Lean Manufacturing and A3 problem solving. At NTID, Ms. Dannels teaches engineering-related courses to deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students at the associates level and provides tutoring to DHH students studying for baccalaureate degrees. Her research interest is on the latest evolving advancements in the STEM field.

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Matthew M. Marshall Rochester Institute of Technology (COE)

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Matthew Marshall is an Associate Professor in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Rochester Institute of Technology. He received a Ph.D. in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2002. He is director of the Human Performance Laboratory at RIT and his research interests include the biomechanics of sign language interpreting and the ergonomic design of consumer products.

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Integration of experiential learning to develop problem solving skills in deaf and hard of hearing STEM studentsA pervasive assumption about educating students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) is thatovercoming the communication barrier between instructor and student is sufficient to effectivelyeducate these students. However, research demonstrates that DHH students have additionalneeds that extend beyond the communication barrier. A critical challenge that DHH studentsface in pursuing STEM degrees is developing problem-solving skills and by extension,understanding the interaction among concepts or variables that are interrelated. Compared totheir hearing peers, DHH students often bring a lower level of conceptual knowledge to theclassroom. As a result, when faced with a problem involving an unfamiliar system, DHHstudents may not easily relate past experience to the problem at-hand. Furthermore, educatorsneed to accommodate for the fact that deaf children learn differently, are more visual, and oftenprocess information differently than their hearing peers.To address these challenges, an approach was developed that combines interactive, experientiallearning activities with the ‘A3’-based approach to problem-solving commonly used in industry.The approach is rooted in the traditional Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) philosophy and refers tothe 11 x 17-inch paper on which each step of the problem-solving process is documented. Themethod provides a structured way of reporting problems and emphasizes the use of visualinformation (e.g., graphs and charts) to clearly and efficiently convey the problem as well as thestages leading to its mitigation. In this approach, students document experiential laboratoryproblems and step-through the initial stages of the PDCA cycle. The ‘A3’ problem solvingrequires students to develop and improve their critical thinking skills.Utilizing a state-of-the-art production systems laboratory, DHH students act as workers inmanufacturing and warehousing scenarios and work in teams to solve problems they encounterfirst-hand. By being part of the system, students quickly develop the content knowledge neededto address problems introduced as part of the lab activity. To ensure accessibility of thelaboratory content, such as providing equal access to information, online video clips weredeveloped that use American Sign Language and captioning to define relevant technical terms.To evaluate the approach, students completed a series of four problem-solving case studies thatwere developed or adapted for this project and blindly scored using a previously developedrubric. The case studies were used as pre/post and follow-up instruments for assessment. Twocontrol groups and two intervention groups were established in the experiment. Preliminaryresults (Figure 1) indicate that students who experienced the intervention realized, on average, astatistically significant, 10.6% improvement in assessment score compared to a pre-test baselineand maintained this performance at a six-month follow-up. By comparison the control group didnot experience any statistically significant change in baseline performance. The interventiongroup scored higher than the control group at a statistically significant level for each test exceptthe baseline pre-test. Data collection and analysis are ongoing, and improvements are currentlybeing implemented to the intervention modules. It is anticipated that these enhancements andtheir effects on student performance will be presented in the full paper.Figure 1. Comparison of problem-solving assessment scores for the control and intervention groups. Pre-testwas administered prior to the experiential learning activities, and Post-test was administered immediatelyafter the learning activities.

Carrano, A. L., & Dannels, W. A., & Marshall, M. M. (2014, June), Integration of Experiential Learning to Develop Problem Solving Skills in Deaf and Hard of Hearing STEM Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20678

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