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Students’ Perception of Relevance of Physics and Mathematics in Engineering Majors

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Physics & Physics Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1435.1 - 26.1435.22



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Paper Authors


Genaro Zavala Tecnologico de Monterrey and Universidad Andres Bello Orcid 16x16

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Professor of the Physics Department at the Tecnologico de Monterrey. He is currently at the Engineering School of the Universidad Andres Bello in Chile. He is a member of the National Research System in Mexico and is the leader of the Physics Education Research and innovation Group. He has 68 papers in journals and proceedings, 6 books, 7 book chapters, 135 presentations in Mexico, Korea, Denmark, Hungary, Cuba, United States, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina and 26 workshops in Mexico, Chile and Argentina. He has participated obtaining projects funded by the European Consortium of Innovative Universities, HP Development Company, Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo and the University of Arizona. He is a member of the Mexican Council of Educational Research, Vicepresident of the Latin American Physics Education Network (LAPEN), coordinator of the Evaluation of Learning and Instruction Topical Group within the International Research Group on Physics Teaching (GIREP for French); member of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) in which he was member and president of the International Committee (2006-2008), president of the committee in 2008, member and president of the Philanthropy Committee (2011-2013), member of the Membership and Benefits Committee (2012-2015), founding president of the American Association of Physics Teachers, Mexican section. In the AAPT he is currently a member of the Research in Physics Education Committtee (RiPE) and elected member of the Physics Education Research Leadership Organizing Council (PERLOC). He is a member of the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) Network on Information Technology, and coordinator of the Science Education Community of the Corporación Universitaria para el Desarrollo del Internet (CUDI). The main area of interest of Prof. Zavala is Physics Education Research in which he studies students’ conceptual understanding, designs and implements assessment tools in education, researches on the use of technology in the classroom and conducts research on the acquisition of skills by university students in active learning environments.

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Angeles Dominguez Tecnologico de Monterrey and Universidad Andres Bello Orcid 16x16

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Angeles Dominguez is a Professor of the Department of Mathematics within the School of Engineering at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico, and she is currently at the University Andres Bello at Santiago, Chile, for a sabbatical period collaborating with the School of Engineering. She holds a bachelor degree in Physics Engineering from Tecnologico de Monterrey and a doctoral degree in Mathematics Education from Syracuse University, New York. Professor Dominguez is a member of the Researchers’ National System in Mexico (SNI) and currently she is the President of Red de Investigación e Innovación en Educación del Noreste de México (REDIIEN). Angeles has been a visiting researcher at Syracuse University, at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches undergraduate courses in Mathematics and graduate courses in Education. Professor Dominguez is a thesis advisor on the master and doctoral programs on education at the Tecnologico de Monterrey. Her main research areas are: a) models and modeling, b) use of technology to improve learning and c) evaluation. In addition, Professor Dominguez is the coordinator of the conTIgo T3 Latin America group that focuses on an effective and efficient use of the Texas Instrument technology in the mathematics and science classroom.

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Arturo Cristian Millan Universidad Andres Bello Orcid 16x16

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Associate Professor in the Engineering School of Universidad Andres Bello. Physicist of Condensed Matter with a strong interest in Educational Research and Quality Assurance. Director of Project FIAC2 UAB1101, financed by chilean Education Ministry to improve learning of sciences in first year university students. President of Steering Committee for International Accreditation of Universidad Andres Bello with Middle States Commission on Higher Education, MSCHE (2012-2015). Dean of the School of Exact Sciences (2011-2014), Dean of the School of Engineering (2007-2011), Director of Educational Technologies (2004-2007) at Universidad Andres Bello.

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Mauricio Gonzalez Universidad Andres Bello

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Head and researcher at the Innovation and Development Teaching and teacher and researcher at the Department of Physics at the University Andres Bello. Collaborates with the Interdisciplinary Center for Ionic Liquids from Millennium-University of Chile Science Initiative. He earned the title of Professor of Physics (Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences) and Doctor Molecular Physical Chemistry (Andres Bello Universtity). His areas of interest are the theoretical development of reactivity indices molecules as well as teacher training and university education. Among other he has published in Molecular Physics Chemistry, Phenomenological chemical reactivity theory for mobile electrons (TCA, 2010), Bond Fukui Functions as descriptor of the Electron Density Reorganization in π Conjugated Systems (JOC, 2012) are some selected papers. By other hand in education he has published respect to university teacher development, the development od school and university teachers in Chile: Gap or continuity? (Perspectiva Educacional, 2014).

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Students’ perception of relevance of physics and mathematics in engineering majorsIn Chilean universities there are a large proportion of engineering students who abandon theirstudies within the first year. There is a variety of reasons for this phenomenon. This highdropping out rate could be related to failing first year physics and math courses (sometimes morethan once). However, that relation has not been studied in Chile. In general, there is a consensusin the literature that these two phenomena (failing courses and dropping out) are caused in somedegree by the limited preparation on these sciences that students receive in precollege educationas well as by the traditional teaching strategies, (being lecturing a quite common teachingstrategy in physics and math courses). However, this study takes a different approach. Webelieve that another strong reason for failing the course and dropping out of school might berelated to students’ perception of relevance of physics and mathematics of their professionalcareer, in this case, engineering. This study’s population consists of 2000 students taking firstyear physics and math courses in a large private university in Chile. A Likert-scale instrument isused in which students choose from a completely agree-to-completely disagree scale ofstatements that are related to relevance of physics and mathematics to both the applicability ofthese classes in their upper division engineering courses and students’ future career.The results of this study discuss on three aspects: 1) the comparison of students’ perceptions ofthe relevance of physics and mathematics of scholar engineering and professional engineeringpractices, 2) the comparison of students’ perceptions of the relevance of physics to that ofmathematics and 3) gender differences on those perceptions. As conclusions, we present somerecommendations to instructors and course designers.

Zavala, G., & Dominguez, A., & Millan, A. C., & Gonzalez, M. (2015, June), Students’ Perception of Relevance of Physics and Mathematics in Engineering Majors Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24772

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