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Learning through Cognitive Dissonance: Engineering Students Use of "Pseudo Peer Diagrams"

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Research Informing Teaching Practice II

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.885.1 - 25.885.14



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Paper Authors


Sensen Li Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Sensen Li is a Ph.D. student in the engineering education program at Purdue University. She holds a M.S.Ed. in educational technology from Purdue University.

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Sean P. Brophy Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Learning through cognitive dissonance: a pilot study of how first yearengineering honors students interpret pseudo peer diagramsThe discrepancies between learners’ existing understanding and new information drivelearners to evaluate their thinking and accommodate new ideas. The intended cognitivedissonance should be neither too large nor too small since learners may resist learning.Leveraging Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development” and theories of formativeassessment we are evaluating various forms of formative feedback in a classroom settingand the issues and opportunities to facilitate learning. Direct formative feedback methodstailored to specific learners’ needs can have high impact on learners’ ability to noticeerrors in their thinking and correct appropriately. Diagnoses of each students learningdifficulty can be difficult in a large class setting. Classroom assessment systems like apersonal response system provide students the opportunity apply what they’ve learned toanswer questions posed by the instructor. In engineering learning setting much of thelearning and knowledge is represented in diagrams. This makes formative assessments aharder challenge to implement.As part of an ongoing study of formative feedback systems we are exploring the potentialof using “pseudo peer diagrams” as a low cost, indirect formative feedback method. Weanticipate learners with high motivation and academic talent usually take a central andactive role to reduce cognitive dissonance by actively monitoring and regulating theirthinking. Therefore, we use indirect formative feedback to diagnose learners commonerrors associate with generating visual representation of problems they are solving ordesigning. This study asked first-year engineering honors students to generate variousvisual representations like system charts and flow diagrams to solve algorithm problemsand design robot systems. As instructors, we provide pseudo peer diagrams to generatecognitive dissonance once they complete their own diagrams. As part of a classroomdiscussion students are presented with these pseudo peer diagrams. These classroomdiscussions can foster their self-check strategy which reduces instructors’ need to processlarge amount in real time and still provide real time feedback. This paper presentsmethods for mapping the knowledge of the particular domain space and informed theinstructional design. The results will illustrate a method for quickly classifying students’errors associated with evaluating engineering systems and recommendation for how todesign formative feedback for classroom us and individual learning system. This workwill be interesting to researcher interested in how engineering students learn withrepresentations and how it develops with instruction involving indirect feedback methodsassociated with using pseuso peer generated artifacts. 

Li, S., & Brophy, S. P. (2012, June), Learning through Cognitive Dissonance: Engineering Students Use of "Pseudo Peer Diagrams" Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21642

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