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The Effect Of Study Journals On Student Performance And Attitudes In An Electrical Engineering Course

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.409.1 - 2.409.9

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Paper Authors

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Parris C. Neal

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Donna E. Peterson

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Cindy L. Lynch

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

Session 3232

The Effect of Study Journals on Student Performance and Attitudes in an Electrical Engineering Course Cameron H. G. Wright, Donna E. Peterson, Parris C. Neal Department of Electrical Engineering U.S. Air Force Academy, CO Cindy L. Lynch Independent Scholar New Concord, KY

ABSTRACT One hundred and eighty nine students enrolled in a sophomore electrical engineering circuits class were asked to keep a journal of their study habits, observations, and attitudes regarding the course as it progressed through the semester. They were periodically asked to turn in parts of their journal for review, with a submittal of a two-page study journal summary at midterm and the end of the semester. This paper describes how the use of a study journal in this way improved many students’ awareness of their study habits for the course and enhanced their overall educational experience. Data are presented in the form of student comments excerpted from their study journal summaries. The authors discuss inferred improvements in the students’ cognitive development. While difficult to prove, the authors postulate that the use of a study journal ultimately benefits the students’ attitude and performance in follow-on engineering classes and can aid techniques such as problem-based learning.

INTRODUCTION Early in their college careers, many engineering students have difficulty mastering their more technical classes, sometimes not realizing that these classes typically require a different approach to studying (i.e., reading coupled with the practice of problem sets) compared to other classes such as history or literature (where reading alone is the normal study mode). This can lead to early frustration with engineering and is a contributing factor to the high attrition rates experienced by all the engineering disciplines.1,2 Thus any method that improves our students’ study habits may increase retention rates and potentially improve overall student performance. For us, another motivation for improving our students’ study habits results from one of the specific educational outcomes stipulated for the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), which states we must produce “officers who can frame and resolve ill-defined problems.” In this context, an ill-defined problem (sometimes referred to in the literature as an unstructured problem) is ambiguous, iterative, and ever-changing. This type of problem lacks certainties related to the validity and completeness of the data available, the range of solution options, and the outcomes that follow from various solutions. If experts might disagree about the best solution, it can be called an ill-defined problem. Obviously, ill-defined problems abound in engineering, and the desire to graduate students who can handle this type of problem is not unique to USAFA. While simply improving our students’ study habits will not, by itself, result in the ability to frame and

Neal, P. C., & Peterson, D. E., & Lynch, C. L., & Wright, C. (1997, June), The Effect Of Study Journals On Student Performance And Attitudes In An Electrical Engineering Course Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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