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Investigating the Impact of Model Eliciting Activities on Development of Critical Thinking

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Novel Pedagogies 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.830.1 - 23.830.22



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Paper Authors


James A. Kaupp Queen's University

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Researcher and Adjunct Professor (Msc '06, PhD '12) at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. Educational research interests include engineering education development, critical thinking & problem solving, outcomes based assessment and interactive learning through technology. Scientific interests include regenerative medicine, tissue and biomedical engineering and human biomechanics.

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Brian M Frank P.Eng. Queen's University

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Brian Frank is an associate professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, where he has taught courses in electronics and wireless systems. He is the DuPont Canada Chair in Engineering Education Research and Development, and the Director of Program Development in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science where he works on engineering curriculum development, program assessment, and developing educational technology. He is a co-founder of the Canadian Engineering Education Association and is currently coordinating the Engineering Graduate Attribute Development Project, working with National Council of Deans of Engineering and Applied Science and the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, to develop national guidelines and resources for outcomes assessment in engineering education.

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Ann Shih-yi Chen Queen's University

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Ann Chen is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queen's University. Before coming to Queen's, she completed her PhD in second language education at the University of Cambridge and worked for a major testing company in the UK, where she helped to develop a nation-wide language proficiency test. More recently, she has been involved in a variety of educational studies employing mixed-method research designs.

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Investigating the Impact of Model Eliciting Activities on Development of Critical ThinkingModel eliciting activities (MEAs) are realistic problems used in the classroom that requirelearners to document not only their solution to the problems, but also their processes for solvingthem. MEAs have been developed and used in a variety of subject areas, including mathematics,economics, and environmental engineering. Studies have shown MEAs to be valuable in helpingstudents to develop conceptual understanding, knowledge transfer, and generalizable problem-solving skills.MEAs have been integrated into a first-year undergraduate engineering course at a medium-sizedCanadian university. Students in this course are asked to work collaboratively on three differentMEAs, each introduced in a three- to four-week cycle. While each MEA requires students toemploy different areas of subject knowledge, students are taught to approach all three MEAsusing critical thinking skills. For example, students are guided to draw concept maps, questionthe credibility of information sources, incorporate a range of factors into their decision-making,and consider the implications of their conclusions. These skills are what Paul (2006) calls“elements” of critical thinking—invaluable thinking processes involved in any complexproblem-solving activity.A research team has been formed at the university to investigate the impact of the MEA-integrated course on students’ development of critical thinking skills. Ultimately, the team aimsto determine whether the MEA-integrated course facilitates students’ critical thinking. Presently,the team has developed two mini-MEAs to be used as pretest and posttest instruments. They aresimilar to the three MEAs introduced in the course, in that they are set in realistic contexts, butthey are simpler, in that students do not need to do any modeling in labs and are given readingmaterial that is shortened and directly relevant to issues embedded in these MEAs. The paperpresented discusses a pilot study the team conducted on one of the mini-MEAs, which we callmini-MEA A.The purpose of this pilot study was twofold: first, to explore thinking processes involved insolving mini-MEA A; and second, to develop a standard procedure for identifying and evaluatingthinking processes involved. The method employed for eliciting students’ thinking processes wascalled the think-aloud, in which involve participants think aloud while solving a problem. Afterthis the researcher analyzes their verbal and written products, which are known as “think aloudprotocols.” Three upper-year engineering students who had no exposure to the MEA-integratedcourse were randomly selected for the study. Prior to signing consent forms, all three participantswere briefed about the purpose and procedure of the study. The entire think-aloud session lastedfor about one hour, was video-taped, and transcribed and annotated.The research team divided students’ think aloud protocols into five segments. Each segmentconsisted of a particular issue with which the group tackled. Drawing on Paul’s theoreticalframework for critical thinking, the research team found that while students did display criticalthinking in each segment, the quality of this thinking could be greatly improved. For example,the group was able to make reasonable safety recommendations, but the students made severalrecommendations without critically examining their own assumptions or those of the informationsources provided to them. In this presentation, the research team will show several examplesdrawn from the think aloud protocols and discuss how Paul’s theoretical framework can be usedto evaluate students’ thinking processes. In addition, the research team will discuss theadvantages and disadvantages of using mini-MEAs as pretest and posttest tools for investigatingthe impact of MEAs on students’ critical thinking skills.

Kaupp, J. A., & Frank, B. M., & Chen, A. S. (2013, June), Investigating the Impact of Model Eliciting Activities on Development of Critical Thinking Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19844

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