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Utilizing Keeley’s Formative Assessments in a Sophomore-level Technical Civil and Environmental Engineering Course to Identify and Address Students’ Misconceptions

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Environmental Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Natasha Andrade University of Maryland, College Park

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Dr. Natasha Andrade is a Lecturer in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Maryland College Park. Her responsibilities include teaching various undergraduate courses in environmental engineering (such as Engineering for Sustainability and Environmental Engineering Science) and conducting engineering education research. She has specialized in redesigning engineering courses to make them learner-centered and based on active learning activities. More recently, she started work on engineering education research that aims to effectively incorporate socio-technical thinking in required technical courses. Her discipline research is focused on the production of stabilized biosolids, its use as a fertilizer and its impact on environmental pollution concerning organic contaminants. She recently has started work on Amazonic mercury contamination due to illegal mining.

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Engineering for Sustainability, a sophomore-level technical engineering course, focuses on how students apply knowledge gained in basic science classes to engineering problems, which is one of the ABET requirements for accreditation 1. The course covers sizing of non-renewable and renewable energy systems, as well as design of green infrastructure for stormwater management, and sustainability rating tools. It is known that students, before taking engineering courses, have prior notions about natural phenomena gained in college science courses and in K-12 education. Sometimes, these prior notions may not align with currently accepted scientific knowledge and experts’ knowledge 2,3. Bridging the gap between how students understand basic science principles and how experts understand the same principles can be a challenge. However, this challenge is worth undertaking as the understanding of basic scientific principles influence engineering practice 4. This paper presents sophomore-level civil and environmental engineering students’ misconceptions of two concepts used in the Engineering for Sustainability course. The two concepts are: greenhouse effect and energy transfer. Students’ ideas about the two concepts were assessed using Keeley’s probes 5,6, which are formative assessment activities designed to uncover students’ ideas primarily in the K-12 grades. Although the assessment probes are not designed for post-secondary level, they have been useful in identifying engineering students’ preconceived ideas. Analysis of the data shows that between 12.3 and 38.2 % of the student population has misconceptions with regards to heat transfer concepts. These misconceptions are rooted in their ideas of heat and cold as entities that move between objects. With regards to the greenhouse effect, the vast majority of the students showed a variety of misconceptions. The most prevalent misconception associated with the greenhouse effect is conflating it or closely relating it to the thinning of the ozone layer.

Andrade, N. (2019, June), Utilizing Keeley’s Formative Assessments in a Sophomore-level Technical Civil and Environmental Engineering Course to Identify and Address Students’ Misconceptions Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33527

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