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Promoting Problem Solving Proficiency in First Year Engineering: Comparison of Learning Resources

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First Year Programs Division Poster Session: The Best Place to Really Talk about First-Year Education

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1277.1 - 26.1277.9



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Paper Authors


Sarah Jane Grigg Clemson University

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Dr. Sarah Grigg is a lecturer in General Engineering at Clemson University. Her research focuses on process improvement and error mitigation across various contexts, including engineering education, healthcare, and transportation. She received her Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. degrees in Industrial Engineering and an M.B.A. from Clemson University.

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Elizabeth Anne Stephan Clemson University

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Dr. Elizabeth Stephan holds a B.S. and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Akron. Since 2002, she has been a faculty member in the General Engineering (G.E.) Program at Clemson University. She has taught, developed, and coordinated the first-year curriculum for the G.E. Program. As the lead author of the "Thinking Like an Engineer" textbook, currently in its 3rd edition, she has been the primary author team–member in charge of the development of the MyEngineeringLab system. She is also the Chief Advisor for SC Alpha Chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.

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Promoting Problem Solving Proficiency in First Year Engineering: Comparison of Learning ToolsPromoting problem solving skill development is a major focus of our first year engineeringcourses as problem solving proficiency is a critical skill needed to be a practicing engineer.Throughout the semester several difference learning tools were utilized to help promote thedevelopment of successful problem solving skills, provide feedback on errors in their work, andpush students to work problems in a timely manner. At the end of the term, students weresurveyed about the effectiveness of seven of the learning tools used in the class. Students wereasked to rank how effective each learning tool was at improving the student’s ability to solveengineering problems on a scale from 0-5 with 5 being very effective, 4, being moderatelyeffective, 3 being slightly effective, 2 being ineffective, 1 being very ineffective, and 0 being notapplicable.A preliminary analysis was conducted on a sample of the data (n=186, with data from three ofeleven faculty members) indicated that, on average, students perceived six of the tools asmoderately effective and one as slightly effective. Students indicated that the most effectivelearning tools were attributes of the online-homework system. Results suggest that the mosteffective learning tool at improving the student’s ability to solve problem was the instantfeedback on solution accuracy provided on the electronic homework problems (74% rated veryeffective), followed by untimed practice problems (55% rated very effective), followed by timedpractice quizzes in the online system (43% rated very effective). The in-class learning tools wererated slightly lower at improving their ability to solve engineering problems. Though studentsrated these learning modules as less effective at improving their ability to solve problems, thelearning tools may have promoted the development of foundational knowledge or build skillswhich was not explicitly asked in the survey. In-class learning tools were rated by the majorityof respondents as moderately effective.Data analysis is ongoing and will look at variations in responses based on student learningbehaviors such as interaction with the online homework system, completion of handwrittenhomework assignments, and overall course performance. Future research will compare thechange in student’s perceptions of the online-assignment system change when homework ispresented as recommended instead of assigned. Faculty and grader perceptions will also beevaluated.

Grigg, S. J., & Stephan, E. A. (2015, June), Promoting Problem Solving Proficiency in First Year Engineering: Comparison of Learning Resources Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24614

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