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The Use of Differentiated Learning Activities to Enhance Engineering Students Learning

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1353.1 - 25.1353.8



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Paper Authors


Muhsin Menekse Arizona State University

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Muhsin Menekse is pursuing a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in the Science Education program at Arizona State University concurrently with a M.A. degree in measurement, statistics, and methodological studies. He had research experiences in the areas of conceptual change of naive ideas about science, argumentation in computer supported learning environments, and video game design to support students’ understanding of Newtonian mechanics. Muhsin is currently working under the supervision of Dr. Michelene Chi to develop and implement a classroom-based methodology with instructional materials, activities, and assessments by using a cognitive framework of differentiated overt learning activities for designing effective classroom instruction in materials science and engineering.

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Stephen J. Krause Arizona State University

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Stephen J. Krause is professor in the School of Materials in the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches in the areas of bridging engineering and education, capstone design, and introductory materials engineering. His research interests include evaluating conceptual knowledge, misconceptions and their repair, and conceptual change. He has co-developed a Materials Concept Inventory for assessing conceptual knowledge of students in introductory materials engineering classes. He is currently conducting research on misconceptions and development of strategies and tools to promote conceptual change in materials courses.

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Michelene T.H. Chi Arizona State University

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Micki Chi is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. She is a member of the National Academy of Education. She is also a fellow in Cognitive Science, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychological Society. Her research focuses on how teachers can enhance students’ learning by making them more constructive and interactive. She is also interested in developing interventions that can help students understand the interlevel causal relations between micro-level elements and macro-level patterns of many science processes.

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The Use of Differentiated Learning Activities to Enhance Engineering Students LearningThis study investigates the effectiveness of differentiated overt learning activities (DOLA)framework (Chi, 2009) in engineering context by classifying activities as active, constructive andinteractive based on their underlying cognitive processes and their effectiveness on studentlearning. The claim here is that the activities designed as active are expected to engage learnersmore than passive instruction can do; the activities designed as constructive are expected tofacilitate the generation of better and/or more new ideas and knowledge than the active activitiescan facilitate; and the activities designed as interactive are often expected to generate superiorideas and knowledge than constructive activities, but only when all students are contributingsubstantial joint intellectual effort.We have designed one classroom study (i.e. study 1) and one controlled lab study (i.e. study 2)with engineering students at a state university in southwest of USA to discover: 1) how and towhat degree differentiated overt learning activities affect students’ learning outcomes? 2) Whatis the relative effectiveness of interactive, constructive, active, and passive activities in terms ofstudents’ learning? 3) How do students’ interactions in small groups influence their learningoutcomes? 4) What kind of discourse moves has significant effects on students’ knowledgeconstruction while working collaboratively?The implementation of study 1 has been carried out with 42 engineering students enrolled at amaterials science class. Eight class activities for two fundamental units (atomic bonding andcrystal structures) were modified based on the DOLA framework. Student learning for eachactivity was measured with two-tiered questions in which the first part assessed relatively lowlevel understanding, and the second part assessed deeper understanding that required a higherlevel of cognition to respond. The overall results show: (1) students did significantly better onquestions related to interactive activities than they did for the active activities; (2) students didsignificantly better on questions related to constructive activities than they did for the activeactivities; (3) no significant differences are observed between students’ performances related toconstructive and interactive activities in total scores, but students performed better on moredifficult questions related to interactive activities than they did for constructive activities.Overall, our findings provided evidence to support the DOLA framework. Also, the difficultlylevel of questions revealed the real variance between interactive and constructive activities interms of learning (Menekse, Stump, Krause & Chi, 2011).On the other hand, there were some limitations in study 1. First, because that study has beenimplemented in a real classroom, it was difficult to control for confounding factors like the levelof students interaction and time spent to complete tests and activities. Second, we did not recordstudents’ discussion in interactive condition, so we cannot evaluate the quality of dialogues andthe level of interactivity. Third, there was no pure control group as a “passive” condition.Based on the limitations in the study 1, we designed study 2 with more controlled settings and alarger sample size (N =120). The test scores revealed that students in interactive conditionperformed better than the students in constructive condition, which in turn are better than thestudents in active and passive conditions. Also, the students in active condition performed betterthan the ones in passive condition.An important next step is to complete the qualitative analysis for students’ discussion ininteractive condition to investigate the students’ co-creation of ideas and knowledge whileinteracting. The transcripts of students’ dialogues in interactive condition will be coded andanalyzed based on the type discourse moves, the amount of substantive contributions made byeach partner in their exchanges, and the deepness or quality of students’ explanations.References:Chi, M.T.H. (2009) Active-constructive-interactive: a conceptual framework for differentiatinglearning activities. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1:73-105.Menekse, M., Stump, G., Krause, S., & Chi, M.T.H. (2011). Implementation of differentiatedactive-constructive-interactive activities in an engineering classroom. Proceedings of theAmerican Society for Engineering Education. Vancouver, Canada.

Menekse, M., & Krause, S. J., & Chi, M. T. (2012, June), The Use of Differentiated Learning Activities to Enhance Engineering Students Learning Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22110

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