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Process Analysis as a Feedback Tool for Development of Engineering Problem Solving Skills

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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

Assessment of Student Learning 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.987.1 - 23.987.12



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Paper Authors

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Sarah Jane Grigg Clemson University

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Jennifer Van Dyken Clemson University


Lisa Benson Clemson University

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Lisa Benson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Bioengineering. Dr. Benson teaches first year engineering, undergraduate research methods, and graduate engineering education courses. Her research interests include student-centered active learning, assessment of motivation, and how motivation affects student learning. She is also involved in projects that utilize Tablet PCs to enhance and assess learning, and incorporating engineering into secondary science and math classrooms. Her education includes a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Vermont, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Bioengineering from Clemson University.

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Beshoy Morkos

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Beshoy Morkos is a newly appointed assistant professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology. Dr. Morkos was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Engineering & Science Education at Clemson University performing NSF funded research on engineering student motivation and its effects on persistence and the use of advanced technology in engineering classroom environments. Dr. Morkos received his Ph.D. from Clemson University in the Clemson Engineering Design and Applications Research (CEDAR) lab under Dr. Joshua Summers. While at Clemson, he received many national awards and was a recipient of the ASME Graduate Teaching Fellowship. His research focuses on developing computational representation and reasoning support for the management complex system design, and is currently implemented in multiple industry practices. Dr. Morkos’ research has been published in several journals and conference proceedings around the world. He graduated with his B.S. and M.S in Mechanical Engineering in 2006 and 2008 from Clemson University and has worked on multiple sponsored projects funded by partners such as NASA, Michelin, and BMW. His past work experience include working at the BMW Information Technology Research Center (ITRC) as a Research Associate and Robert Bosch Corporation as a Manufacturing Engineer. Dr. Morkos’ research thrust include: design representations, computational reasoning, systems modeling and engineering, engineering education, collaborative design, and data/knowledge management.

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Process Analysis as a Feedback Tool for Development of Engineering Problem Solving SkillsOne of the directives set forth by the National Academy of Engineers urges educationalresearchers to develop means of advancing personalized learning, or tailoring instruction to meetstudents’ individual needs. When solving problems, there are a vast number of ways thatstudents can err, all of which require different instructional interventions to amend. Identifyingindividual instructional needs requires a different form of assessment than traditional outcomes-based grading systems. It requires a more thorough analysis of the cognitive processes that leadto outcomes and discrepancies that occur throughout the completion of learning activities thatdiffer from the intended process.The purpose of this research was to establish an evidence-based method of assessing students’problem solving processes that can be applied to problems from a variety of contexts andformats. Data was collected from first year engineering students enrolled in an introductorycourse focused on building foundational skills required by all engineering majors. Processanalysis was applied to identify cognitive tasks used in successful solutions completed by firstyear students, the most prominent deficiencies in problem solving processes, and common errorsmade in students’ problem solving attempts. These tasks and errors were mapped to a problem-solving cycle identified by Pretz et al. (2003) with six categories of skills (Define the problem,Represent the problem, Organize knowledge about the problem, Allocate resources for solvingthe problem, Monitor progress toward the goals, and Evaluate the solution) and one category forsolution accuracy.Based on the findings of this research, an assessment tool was developed that enables theevaluation of the problem solving process, pinpointing underutilization of key tasks that havebeen linked to successful problem solutions as well as identifying errors committed in eachsegment of the process. This seven-category instrument ranks student performances based onlevel of proficiency exhibited for each skill (high/medium/low) and identifies the presence orabsence of errors. These values are tallied for an overall score that reflects level of problem-solving proficiency.The major advantage to this assessment tool over traditional grading methods is that it can beapplied as a personalized feedback system to inform students of their level of proficiency as wellas pinpoint skill deficiencies that need attention. This information could then be used byinstructors to direct students to resources and/or to design instructional interventions forovercoming these deficiencies. Additionally, researchers can use this assessment tool toinvestigate the effectiveness of various pedagogical interventions in terms of improving problemsolving performance and pinpointing what skill(s) are most affected. The assessment tool iscurrently being evaluated in terms of reliability and validity for use with different problemsdesigned for first year engineering students, specifically testing its use with problem statementsthat have modified structures and that address new contexts.

Grigg, S. J., & Van Dyken, J., & Benson, L., & Morkos, B. (2013, June), Process Analysis as a Feedback Tool for Development of Engineering Problem Solving Skills Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22372

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