June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.1123.1 - 22.1123.13
Open-book problem-solving in engineeringAbstractThe bulk of educational research exploring open-book examination demonstrates thatthe open-book format reduces student anxiety and promotes higher-level learning (i.e.,reduces reliance upon rote memorization and prompts students to focus onunderstanding concepts and principles). Previous studies examining open-bookassessment provide evidence that students exhibit better performance on open-bookexams compared to closed-book exams. In addition, many university faculty find itadvantageous to employ exams using an open-book format, especially in engineering.However, within engineering we know little about how students approach open-booktesting, particularly with regard to how they spend their time on different tasks andhow this division of time may affect performance.The study in this paper examined the testing behavior of 8 senior materials science andengineering students at a large public university in the southeastern US. Studentscompleted four complex engineering problems during individual laboratory sessionswhile engaged in a think-aloud procedure (i.e. verbally explaining their thoughtprocesses as they worked through the problems). The problems were designed to varyin terms of their closed or open-endedness and the number of decision points involvedin their solution. Students’ think-aloud protocols were categorized to determine theamount of time spent on each of five exam behaviors: reading from the textbook,writing, calculating, reading the test question, talking/reflecting, or checking one’swork. Problem solutions were separately graded using a previously created rubric. Thetime spent on various behavior categories were then examined with respect to problemgrade. Reading represented the bulk of students’ time on the problems (37% onaverage). In contrast, students spent less than 5% of their time checking their work forerrors, 4% using a calculator, and 20% writing/working out their answer on paper.Interestingly, there was a significant negative correlation between reading the textbookand students’ grades. The more time that students spent with the text, the more poorlythey performed. This correlation was strongest for students who had the lowestproblem scores, but was still evident for students with the highest problem scores.Students with the lowest scores tended to search the text for information or an exampleproblem as a guide to how to approach the problem, while students with the highestscores tended to use the text to verify information. This data suggests that for oursample the textbook may have served as a distraction, with associated negative resultsduring problem solving. Our results may have been affected by the context; theproblem-solving sessions were not part of any particular class and the students did nothave an opportunity to prepare ahead of time. However, the results point to theimportance of training students in effective means of using resources during open-bookexams so as to avoid distractive behaviors. This training would serve not only toimprove exam performance, but to educate students in effective use of resources forprofessional practice where open-book problem-solving is the norm.
Therriault, D. J., & Lee, C. S., & Douglas, E. P., & Koro-Ljungberg, M., & McNeill, N. (2011, June), Open-Book Problem-Solving in Engineering: An Exploratory Study Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18495
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