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Observational Study of Students’ Individual Heuristics when Solving Technological Problems

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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

Design Cognition I

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.986.1 - 25.986.13



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Paper Authors

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Jonathan Gerard Spillane University of Limerick

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Niall Seery University of Limerick Orcid 16x16

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Donal Canty University of Limerick

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Diarmaid Lane University of Limerick

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Observational study of students’ individual heuristics when solving technological problemsThe overarching aim of education is the development of creative, critical thinking,problem solving future citizens, who will be able to positively contribute (bothindividually and as part of a collective) to society. Yet, research has highlightedthe misalignment between theory (curriculum) and practice (teaching practices,learning experiences) in the attainment of this aim. The objective of technologyeducation is to produce technologically capable and literate people. Problem-solving and value judgements have been highlighted as critical areas in thedevelopment of technological capability (Gibson, 2008) and technological literacy(Ingerman and Collier-Reed, 2010).This paper investigates students (12-15 year olds) individual heuristics whenproblem solving during a prescribed ICT based computer task. The programattempts to elicit critical thinking and reasoning skills (deductive/abductive). Thedevelopment and application of these skills became apparent as studentsprogressed through the task. Web-capture software was used to track eachstudent’s progress and monitor their decision making.A multidimensional problem-solving framework was employed when observingparticipants attempts. The problem-solving framework looked at four key stages:Identifying, Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating, this was supported by thesub-cycle of conjecture, test, and evaluate (accept/reject) method presented byCarlson and Blooms’ (2005) used to analyse mathematical problem- solving.Simultaneously audio responses were also captured, which gave researchers avaluable and rich data set to interpret individual heuristics, conceptual knowledgeand decision making.The findings presented in this paper illustrate a clear connection betweenAttitudes, Skills, and Knowledge (ASK) and the development of strategicknowledge and successful problem solving. The use of both conscious andsubconscious recognition of signage, symbolism and pattern recognition in theproblem-solving process provided the researcher with insight into the type ofindividual heuristics employed and the performance efficacy of student attempts.

Spillane, J. G., & Seery, N., & Canty, D., & Lane, D. (2012, June), Observational Study of Students’ Individual Heuristics when Solving Technological Problems Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21743

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