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Student Reflections on Experiences Gained from an Open-ended Problem-solving Bio-signals Laboratory

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Division for Experimentation & Lab-oriented Studies Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Renee M. Clark University of Pittsburgh

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Dr. Renee Clark serves as research assistant professor focusing on assessment and evaluation within the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and its Engineering Education Research Center (EERC), where her interests center on active and experiential learning. She has 25 years of experience as an engineer and analyst, having worked most recently for Walgreens and General Motors/Delphi Automotive in the areas of data analysis, IT, and manufacturing. She received her Ph.D. in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and her M.S. in mechanical engineering from Case Western while working for Delphi. She completed her postdoctoral studies in engineering education at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Arash Mahboobin University of Pittsburgh

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Dr. Arash Mahboobin is an assistant professor at the department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering. His research interests include computational and experimental human movement biomechanics, bio-signal processing, and engineering education. Specific areas of biomechanics and bio-signal processing research include developing muscle-actuated forward dynamic simulations of gait (normal and pathological), analysis and modeling of human postural control, and time-varying signals and systems. Engineering education research includes curriculum and laboratory development of biomechanics and bio-signal processing concepts.

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Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory maintains that learning occurs through a combination of doing as well as reflecting on the doing. Likewise, Schon’s Theory of the Reflective Practitioner highlights the value of reflection within professional practice, in particular when dealing with complex problems within professional activity. In line with this, prompting students to reflect on their problem solving is a means of scaffolding them to solve complex problems. In the present work, we continue our ongoing study of scaffolding students in completing open-ended bioengineering laboratory projects, but with a focus on students’ reflections on the experiences gained during the scaffolding. These open-ended projects involved conducting virtual experiments using MATLAB to analyze unknown systems using time and frequency-domain analysis techniques. The systems were both biological (e.g., human balance simulation) as well as non-biological. Students’ experiences included decomposition of the problem, in-class active learning with instructor guidance and interaction, incremental and progressive technical writing, systematic progress monitoring, and timely written guidance and feedback.

In our preliminary study of scaffolding, students’ reflections on the scaffolding provided were positive. To continue our investigation, we asked students to more frequently reflect on the value of the experiences offered to them in the bio-signals laboratory using both a written prompt embedded within a progress report as well as individual reflective interviews. Two additional prompts within the progress reports asked students to reflect on any breakthrough or particularly memorable moments related to the successful completion of their first two projects. Our research objective involves assessing students’ development in becoming capable problem solvers as well as determining those experiences perceived as most valuable or impactful to focus instructional and scaffolding efforts. The instructor and assessment analyst jointly content-analyzed all the reflections using a coding scheme developed during their preliminary work with scaffolding. The content analysis showed the students to most frequently reflect on the positive value of application of lecture content to real problems, teamwork, computer programming experience, instructor guidance and feedback, and experimentation. With this type of reflective information, we can determine best practices for scaffolding students in open-ended problem solving in laboratories of this kind.

Clark, R. M., & Mahboobin, A. (2018, June), Student Reflections on Experiences Gained from an Open-ended Problem-solving Bio-signals Laboratory Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31017

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