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Special Session: Model Eliciting Activities In Engineering: A Focus On Model Building

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Special Session: Next Generation Problem-Solving

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1081.1 - 15.1081.7



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Paper Authors

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Eric Hamilton United States Air Force Academy

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Mary Besterfield-Sacre University of Pittsburgh

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Barbara Olds Colorado School of Mines

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Nora Siewiorek University of Pittsburgh

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

MEAs In Engineering: A Focus On Model Building


This paper addresses the importance of models and modeling in engineering education reform. It focuses specifically on model-eliciting activities, or MEAs, as research and curriculum tools to develop complex reasoning skills, nurture transference and generalizability of problem-solving, and build collaborative skills emphasized in reform literature. Modeling as a key strategy to engineering education carries risk that exclusively didactic and sequential approaches do not, but it appears that much of this risk can be mitigated.


The word curriculum has two related lineages from the original Latin term currere. One refers to the rut in the ground that wheelbarrows would follow in ancient agrarian cultures. The rut guides, but is inflexible and uni‐directional. Another involves a more literal meaning of currere, to run. This implies a sense of dynamism and motion [1]. Curriculum development traditionally has largely involved following a pedagogical, instructional and representational scheme as it can be used to render a structured notion of disciplinary content. Ideas build upon each other in a relatively invariant hierarchy, they are treated as one-off in the sense that students have or have not been exposed to them. Context, intuition, and adaptive problem-solving do not occupy the same importance in learning a curriculum that they occupy in day-to-day living [2]. The aim of a curriculum usually is to take students through a body of content knowledge. The notion of a rut that a wheelbarrow follows is apt, for better or worse, relative to traditional engineering curriculum models, with prescribed beginning, end and intermediate steps.


Recent theorizing that consolidates important trendlines in learning sciences, engineering education research, social software, and educational technology has given rise to a theory of personalized learning communities [3]. While notions about personalizing education has often focused on technology, important research strands have focused on areas that are not intrinsically technological, including the value of eliciting or exposing student conceptual systems as an operational starting place for acquiring new knowledge – in contrast to imparting predetermined concepts as the operational starting point. Indeed, any approach to knowledge development that focuses on conceptual systems rather than a predetermined chain of new ideas contrasts sharply with typical curricula.

Hamilton, E., & Besterfield-Sacre, M., & Olds, B., & Siewiorek, N. (2010, June), Special Session: Model Eliciting Activities In Engineering: A Focus On Model Building Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16566

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