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What is Important in Physics Learning?: Understanding Learning Perspectives and Providing Learning Assistance for Engineering Students

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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

Innovations in Teaching and Research in Physics or Engineering Physics I

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1474.1 - 25.1474.17



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Paper Authors


Jia-Ling Lin University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Jia-Ling Lin is a researcher in the STEM Education Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She served as the director of the Undergraduate Learning Center in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before she moved to Minnesota.

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Manuela Romero University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Manuela Romero is the Assistant Dean of Student Diversity and Academic Services at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Jennifer Binzley University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Eman A. Zaki University of Wisconsin, Madison

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What Is Important in Physics Learning?-Understand Learning Perspectives and Provide Learning Assistance for Engineering Students Engineering education for the new century requires focus not only on traditional teachingand learning, but also on developing skills associated with learning to solve real-world problems.This task demands creativity and team work from all engineering educators, both inside andoutside traditional classrooms. This study explores a teaching strategy outside the classroom,Supplemental Instruction and students perceptions of readiness and subsequent course outcomes. Calculus-based introductory physics courses are known for presenting learningchallenges for engineering students. Learning outcomes of these courses impact subsequentrequired physics courses, particularly for students in chemical, electrical, and nuclearengineering. In 2000, we started the Supplemental Instruction Program (SI, a structuredacademic support program) to assist student learning in these challenging courses. Our previouswork in this area showed that students’ perspectives of the learning environment played a keyrole in fostering effective learning of course material and in promoting a spirit of inquiry. In thisstudy we explore the impact of other factors such as learning goals, study skills, and readiness onstudent outcomes. About a total of 350 students participated in the study. Survey participantswere asked about their perceptions of readiness for learning the material, their study skills andlearning goals. They were also asked to pinpoint specific learning difficulties in areas of mathmodeling, computational skill, and conceptual understanding of physics laws. Initial analysisindicates for example, that students who perceive themselves as ready to learn physics have morepositive outcomes than their peers who do not perceive themselves as being ready. Initialanalysis also indicates that students who were able to identify learning challenges displayedconsistent improvement during the course. This study reinforces our view of the role thatconstructivism, knowledge organization, and metacognition have on learning, and deepens ourunderstanding of why some engineering students struggle in physics classes and how we canprovide assistance to address these issues.References:Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind,experience, and school. Washington, DC: National.Lin, J.-L. & Woolston, D. C. (2008). Important Lessons in Engineering Education Learned fromSeven Years of Experience in Undergraduate Academic Support Programs. Proceedings ofFrontiers in Education, TA3:9-13.Redish, E. F. & Smith, K. A. (2008). Looking beyond Content. Journal of EngineeringEducation, 97(7), 295-307.

Lin, J., & Romero, M., & Binzley, J., & Zaki, E. A. (2012, June), What is Important in Physics Learning?: Understanding Learning Perspectives and Providing Learning Assistance for Engineering Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22231

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