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Scaffolding Transfer Activities Through The Use Of Concept Maps To Enhance Adaptive Problem Solving In An Introductory Engineering Technology Course

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Learning & Teaching Issues

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1082.1 - 9.1082.19



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Paper Authors

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James Houdeshell

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1331

Scaffolding Transfer Activities Through the Use of Concept Maps to Enhance Adaptive Problem Solving in an Introductory Engineering Technology Course James Jay Houdeshell National Center for Manufacturing Education at Sinclair Community College


In the industrial age "knowing what" and "knowing how" to transfer well-structured problem solving skills learned in one context to another context was sufficient for most job positions. With the movement to an information age, problem solving has expanded into the required ability to transform domain-dependent problem solving skills learned in one context into domain-independent skills capable of solving ill-structured problems [1]. Becoming an expert problem solver within this new environment means adding, "knowing why" to what and how knowledge. The typical instructional solution to enhance the student’s problem solving skills is to add a “messy” end of course project, based on the faculty member’s industrial experience or consulting work. Depending on the nature of the problem and the student's familiarity with the project context, student success can be limited. Spiro delineated this condition, stating "cognitive and instructional neglect of problems related to content complexity and irregularity in patterns of knowledge use leads to learning failures that take common, predictable forms (failure to transfer)"[2]. This investigation addresses the underlying theory and evidence advocating concept maps as a method for scaffolding problem solving transfer. In order to minimize the failure to transfer, both the problem solver's factors and the instructional factors must be addressed.

The instructional factors addressed in this investigation include the nature of the problem and instructional interventions that support the application of a problem solving process. Jonassen in 1997 defined a problem's nature by the attributes of complexity, domain specificity, and structuredness [3]. In an instructional environment, the prescribed objectives or stated competencies control the attribute of complexity, while the level of abstractness defines domain specificity. For the third attribute, structuredness, Jonassen in 2000 proposed a taxonomy of problems based on structuredness [4]. Typical ill-structured problems include design and diagnosis-solution problems, while well-structured problems include story and algorithms. Figure 1 illustrates the continuum for these three variables of complexity, abstractness, and structuredness. Obviously, an abstract, complex, and ill-structured problem provides greater cognitive load to the student than a contextual, minimally complex, and well-structured problem. Cognitive load is defined as “the amount of effort-demanding, controlled processing that is imposed on a learner’s cognitive system”[5]. The greater the cognitive load the greater the likelihood of student frustration and failure, however on successful completion the greater the developed skill in problem solving transfer.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright @ 2004 American Society for Engineering Education

Houdeshell, J. (2004, June), Scaffolding Transfer Activities Through The Use Of Concept Maps To Enhance Adaptive Problem Solving In An Introductory Engineering Technology Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13755

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