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Student Attitudes Toward Inquiry Based Exercises In Undergraduate Lab Courses

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1111.1 - 15.1111.16



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Paper Authors

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Gerald Recktenwald Portland State University

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Jenna Faulkner Portland State University

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Robert Edwards Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

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Douglas Howe Portland State University

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

Student Attitudes toward Inquiry-Based Exercises in Undergraduate Lab Courses


This paper reports on work in progress for a Type 1 CCLI project. The primary focus of the research project has been the development of a series of inquiry-based demonstrations and laboratory exercises appropriate for students in the third year of engineering and engineering technology programs. Students volunteered to participate in the research study by allowing the research team to track their grades and survey responses. This paper presents results from analyzing student responses to attitude surveys given before and after the use of the inquiry- based exercises.

Inquiry-Based Demonstrations and Laboratory Exercises

The exercises use common, everyday hardware such as a kitchen blender, a toaster, and a hair dryer. This equipment (1) is familiar and potentially interesting to students, (2) is inexpensive, and (3) clearly exposes important topics in the thermal and fluid sciences. The exercises are based on a guided inquiry model of pedagogy. Students follow worksheets that provide a structured active learning experience. This approach is in contrast to the conventional undergraduate laboratory experience where students follow a cookbook to collect data and then go home to analyze the data and write a report. To give the reader a more concrete idea of the laboratory exercises, we will briefly describe three of the seven pieces of equipment used in different in-class demonstrations and laboratory assignments. The intention here is to give a flavor of the student experiences that lead to the assessment results presented in the second half of the paper. Additional information on the exercises and equipment may be found on the web site and in other publications1-5.

Figure 1 is a schematic of a kitchen blender that is used to teach students about the role of shaft work in thermodynamic systems. The blender is partially filled with water and rigidly supported thermocouples are suspended in the water. The thermocouple output is read by a low cost, USB-based data acquisition system. When the blender apparatus is used for an in-class demonstration, the computer display is connected to the projection system in the classroom. Before the motor is turned on, students are asked to complete a worksheet of five multiple choice and short-answer questions. The questions ask students to predict the direction and magnitude of the response, and to identify the physical mechanism for any observable change in the temperature. The student responses are collected, and only then is the blender motor is turned on. The same apparatus is used in a two-hour laboratory exercise where students work in small groups to make measurements in response to questions on a guided-inquiry worksheet. The students use qualitative reasoning to explain how the temperature response changes with changes in the amount of water in the blender and the motor speed.

Recktenwald, G., & Faulkner, J., & Edwards, R., & Howe, D. (2010, June), Student Attitudes Toward Inquiry Based Exercises In Undergraduate Lab Courses Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16364

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