Salt Lake City, Utah
June 20, 2004
June 20, 2004
June 23, 2004
9.1110.1 - 9.1110.11
Solving Problem-Solving Problems: Solution Step Discipline
Brian A. Alenskis Purdue University
Engineering and engineering technology are nothing if they are not problem solving. Yet after more than a decade of schooling, college freshmen typically arrive with insufficient expertise in assessing problems and producing orderly, mathematical solutions. Whether at an academic department level or by individual professor, college students are guided toward some structured problem solving method. Many problem solving methodologies deal well with the crucial aspects of problem assessment, analysis and solution planning. Yet even if students successfully evaluate the problems, they still struggle with executing and professionally presenting the mathematical steps of their solutions. The author has developed an elegantly concise, yet focused, approach to understanding and presenting these mathematical steps. Termed “Solution Step Discipline” (SSD), faculty for all engineering technology courses at Purdue University School of Technology’s Richmond location incorporated it in the Fall 2002 semester. Surprisingly, the straightforward approach has challenged the students—indicating that the focus remains on the truly key elements of structured thinking. With instructor feedback, students do master SSD, which in turn can enhance the effectiveness of most any overarching problem solving structure. Without a cumbersome number of students at the Richmond location, faculty members were able to uniformly implement Solution Step Discipline and better prepare students for academic success throughout their curricula.
College and university faculty are charged with transforming incoming freshmen into graduate engineers and technologists. To this end, the faculty are traditionally provided students with over a decade of structured academic experience. Over those years, their teachers have intentionally prepared these students for the next level of their academic adventure. Their professors expect prepared freshmen to arrive with basic facts, foundational concepts, and critical skills.
However, freshmen usually lack the problem solving expertise needed for success in technical academics. Even after twelve years of preparation, students struggle to assess and solve problems that differ from elementary text examples. Memorization, rote procedures and calculator gymnastics have triumphed over conceptual understanding. College-level exercises
Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education
Alenskis, B. (2004, June), Solving Problem Solving Problems: Solution Step Discipline Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/13996
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