July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
NSF Grantees Poster Session
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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