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Self Explanation In An Introductory Electrical Circuits Course To Enhance Problem Solving

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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

ECE Education and Engineering Mathematics

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1089.1 - 9.1089.8



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Paper Authors

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Robert Leland

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

Self-Explanation in an Introductory Electrical Circuits Course To Enhance Problem Solving Robert Leland Electrical and Computer Engineering Department University of Alabama

Worked out examples play a prominent role in engineering education. Learning from examples requires active processing that often does not occur in our students, creating an illusion of understanding that can result in poor test performance2. How students process examples can help or hurt them. Many students try to mimic examples without understanding them, and have inaccurate pictures of their own understanding. Students who truly understand examples, and can abstract the ideas embodied by them, should be able to apply those ideas in other contexts and to more difficult problems.

Successful students practice self-explanation, or explaining material to themselves internally. Students who process worked out examples using self explanation do so by relating solution steps to basic principles, and anticipating the next step2,5. Students who practiced self- explanation performed better on both initial learning, and transfer of knowledge to different contexts. Successful statistics students were seen to engage in more conceptual solution behavior and ask more questions of the problem itself, all of which is closely related to self- explanation3. Specific training in self-explanation has been studied and can be effective5. Several studies have shown that when students process examples by self-explanation, or explaining the example to themselves, learning, mastery and problem solving are significantly advanced9,11. We expect that training in self-explanation will also aid students in actively processing examples from lectures or textbooks in ways that promote learning with understanding1.

Students in the first Electrical Circuits course represent a wide range of mathematics and problem solving skills. At the University of Alabama, passing rates in this course have been low in recent years, and this has generally been attributed to deficiencies in math and problem solving skills. To remedy this situation, in the Fall 2003 semester, specific instruction in problem solving and explanation was introduced into the first circuits course (ECE 225), along with active and cooperative learning exercises that emphasized explanation.

Student problem solving skills were assessed with a pre-test at the beginning of the course, and a final exam question at the end of the course. Some improvement in problem solving was observed.

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

Leland, R. (2004, June), Self Explanation In An Introductory Electrical Circuits Course To Enhance Problem Solving Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12942

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