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Students' Transfer of First Law Concepts Across Engineering and Science Discipline-Specific Contexts

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

18

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37770

Download Count

39

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Paper Authors

biography

Alexander P. Parobek Purdue University at West Lafayette (COS)

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Dr. Alex Parobek is a graduate student and chemistry education researcher pursuing a Ph. D. in Chemistry at Purdue University. He previously received a Ph. D. in Chemistry at Yale University for work on single-molecule infrared absorption spectroscopy before transitioning into discipline-based education research. His current research interests center around investigating students' transfer of knowledge across the disciplines of science, engineering, and mathematics. He is a published author in Chemistry Education Research and Practice (CERP) and has served as a reviewer for both CERP and the Journal of Chemical Education.

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biography

Patrick M. Chaffin Purdue University at West Lafayette (COS)

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Mr. Patrick Chaffin is a Ph. D. graduate student at Purdue University conducting chemistry education research. His research interests are focused on exploring the dynamics of student-tutor interactions and students' transfer of knowledge across the disciplines of STEM. He is a published author in Chemistry Education Research and Practice.

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Marcy H. Towns Purdue University at West Lafayette (COS) Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-8422-4874

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Dr. Marcy H. Towns is the Bodner-Honig Professor of Chemistry and Director of General Chemistry at Purdue University. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement, a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. In 2019 she received the Nyholm Prize in Education from the Royal Society of Chemistry. She received the 2017 ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry and the 2017 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry from the Northeast Section of the ACS. She has been recognized with Purdue University’s most prestigious honors for teaching. Her research has focused undergraduate chemistry laboratory including the development and implementation of digital badging to assess hands-on skills, argumentation practices, student understanding of mathematics in chemistry in thermodynamics and kinetics, and student understanding of the chemistry of climate science. Trained as a physical chemist, she developed a passion for research at the interface between mathematics and chemistry that continues to inspire her to this day. She is a member of IUPAC’s Committee on Chemistry Education and was an author on the IUPAC technical report that contributed to the landmark decision to redefine the mole. She served as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Chemical Education for 7 years, focusing on manuscripts pertaining to chemistry education research. Towns began her career as secondary math and chemistry teacher after graduating from Linfield College with a BA in chemistry and mathematics. She received a Jefferson Award for her engagement in activities surrounding food insecurity in her community. She holds an M.S. and Ph. D. from Purdue University in Chemistry having carried out research in chemistry education (masters) and physical chemistry (doctorate).

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Abstract

The first law of thermodynamics plays a crucial role across engineering and science classrooms by allowing students to interpret and predict the evolution of energy and matter throughout a thermodynamic process. Despite the interdisciplinary relevance of the first law, few studies to date have explored the reasoning employed by students across disciplines when addressing this central thermodynamic principle. A qualitative research study was undertaken to investigate students’ reasoning approaches to first law problems across the disciplinary contexts of engineering and science. Undergraduate student participants were recruited from engineering, chemistry, and physics introductory courses and interviewed while evaluating a set of disciplines-specific first law problems. The dynamic transfer framework provided a theoretical and methodological lens for interpreting the ontological and epistemological basis for students’ reasoning as it evolved dynamically over the course of the interview. Classroom observations were undertaken in each course of interest to inform findings derived from the interview portion of the study. Analysis revealed that students in each course appeared to adopt different approaches when framing the first law to address the interview tasks. Engineering and physics students appeared to rely heavily on physical mapping in order to interpret the provided descriptions and equations, while chemistry students relied more heavily on conceptually interpreting the provided descriptions to reason about changes in energy. In particular, engineering students demonstrated a preference for reasoning approaches that involved the application of the mathematical formulation of the first law of thermodynamics and often in manners that were unproductive in the problem-solving context. The variation of students’ reasoning approaches and framing of the first law has implications on the effects of discipline-specific instruction of thermodynamics in engineering and science classrooms. Suggestions are made to practitioners on how to go about varying problems to assist students in developing an interdisciplinary skillset for applying and understanding the first law.

Parobek, A. P., & Chaffin, P. M., & Towns, M. H. (2021, July), Students' Transfer of First Law Concepts Across Engineering and Science Discipline-Specific Contexts Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37770

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