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Models And Practical Problem Solving: The Question Of Disciplinary Integration With Design: An Abstract

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.294.1 - 2.294.3



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Lambert J. Van Poolen

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Session 2261

Models and Practical Problem Solving: The Question of Disciplinary Integration with Design: An Abstract

Lambert J. Van Poolen Calvin College


The thesis of this paper is that the nature of disciplinary learning per se needs to be more thoroughly investigated for insights helpful to a proper appreciation of the role that the sciences, humanities, and social sciences play in practical engineering problem solving. An important insight is to realize, as does Cartwright, that these disciplines are, by their nature, only repositories of models which describe, at best, idealizations of reality (Cartwright, p.4). Also, the context of disciplinary knowledge must be given insightful attention, with particular attention on the experimental process through which much of knowledge emerges, be it, for example, in physics, psychology, or economics.

We explore, then, the nature of the disciplines. We first re-visit the world (the context) within which disciplines arise. Particular emphasis is on the nature of experimentation. Then we consider the modeling of the world that goes on within the disciplines. Finally we look at re- contextualization - the application of the modeled content of the disciplines within the world.

This analysis leads to insights which have moment for deliberations about the role that the disciplines play in practical engineering problem solving. There is a sticky relationship between context and the disciplines: context consists of human activities, values, and the like (related to the development of “theoretical” knowledge through, for example, experimentation); hence, humankind cannot eschew responsibility for disciplinary content. Furthermore, our human- produced artifacts (machines, social systems, and the like) are essentially brittle when based primarily on disciplinary funds of knowledge: they work well under some but not all real conditions. Hence, human security and the quest for control (based on disciplinary knowledge) are misplaced. Finally, emphasis is placed on paying proper attention to the concrete world of experience (from whence the disciplines arise).


The concrete, so-called practical world, forms for Heidegger the background or backdrop or, better yet, the context within which disciplinary theories are formed and developed. And this world has priority: the disciplines are derived from or out of it. Perhaps this is why many students, for example, have such a difficult time applying engineering (and basic) science when they design and build working prototypes of a machine. We can build them (an accomplished

Van Poolen, L. J. (1997, June), Models And Practical Problem Solving: The Question Of Disciplinary Integration With Design: An Abstract Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6690

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