June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.1348.1 - 23.1348.17
Using Writing to Link Procedures and Concepts in StaticsThis study addresses two issues in engineering education: the desire to increase conceptualunderstanding and the need to enhance communication ability. Building on work thatdemonstrates how short writings in content classes can enhance communication skills, this studyexplores whether those same writings enhance conceptual knowledge. In prior work, the authorspresented findings from a pilot study in which weekly writing assignments were given ashomework in a statics course with the aim of improving students’ understanding of coursecontent. Results from the statistical analysis of scores on the Statics Concept Inventory indicateda positive difference in conceptual understanding among students who completed the writtenproblems (experimental group) versus those who did not (control group). However, coursegrades on common exams were similar, suggesting that while conceptual understandingimproved, levels of procedural knowledge between the two groups were undifferentiated.This paper compares the previously reported quantitative data with interview data collectedduring the same semester from selected students in both the control and experimental groups.The semi-structured interviews consisted of open-ended questions related to experiences in thecourse and perceptions of the written problems, as well as a think-aloud portion where studentswere asked to solve a statics problem while verbalizing their thought processes. The interviewswere transcribed and then coded for instances of conceptual and procedural knowledge,including both active demonstrations of each knowledge types as well as verbal indications of aconceptual and/or procedural approach to learning. Participant profiles were constructed fromthe coded sections of the interview, summarizing 1) their approach to learning, 2) their beliefsabout the course, 3) what topic(s) they found most difficult and why, 4) their perceptions of thewritten problems, and 5) their performance on the think-aloud problem. The profiles were thenanalyzed for common themes.Students varied in their approach to learning. Many described a procedure-centered view,including studying by working many problems, focusing on step-by-step solution methods, usingguess and check strategies for homework, etc.; others used more concept-centered methods likefocusing on understanding and seeking out relationships among different problems and topics.Students who perceived the greatest benefit from the written problems were largely those whorelied on concept-centered approaches, reporting that the assignments helped them clarify theirsolution process and generalize it to other similar problems. While procedure-centered studentsreported that they received little benefit from doing the problems, many still reported that they atleast reflected on their solution process and became better at translating their mathematicalsolutions into words.These results suggest that written problems may be useful for students who already desire todevelop conceptual knowledge by providing them with a way to receive feedback beyond thatwhich typically seen in most statics courses. Even for students who do not approach learningconceptually, the problems seem to promote reflection and thus may help them makeconnections between procedure and concept, which may in turn help explain quantitativedifferences found between the experimental and control groups.
Venters, C., & McNair, L. D., & Paretti, M. C. (2013, June), Using Writing to Link Procedures and Concepts in Statics Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/22733
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