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This work-in-progress paper aims to document the process of incorporating open-ended modeling problems (OEMPs) into introductory undergraduate dynamics courses. Content in engineering science courses is historically challenging for students to understand and transfer to new, unfamiliar contexts. These challenges likely arise in part from pervasive traditional teaching methods that emphasize solving “textbook problems” which are not truly representative of the complex, ill-defined problems professional engineers usually engage. Subsequently and unsurprisingly, engineering education researchers and industry stakeholders alike have long lamented engineering graduates’ inability to independently and creatively solve new problems. Practicing engineers exercise what Gainsburg (2007) identifies as engineering judgment to make assumptions, discretize elements, decide how to model qualitative factors, and evaluate the reasonableness of the end result stemming from these decisions. In most engineering classes, instructors (or the textbook) usually simplify systems so much that these activities are circumvented entirely. However, our research team has previously demonstrated how OEMPs, which ask students to apply mathematical models learned in class (e.g., rigid body acceleration analysis) to real-world systems, can inspire the productive beginnings of engineering judgment in undergraduate students.
Our research team has primarily implemented and studied OEMPs in undergraduate introductory statics and mechanics of materials courses. For this current work, we formed a multi-institutional, cross-disciplinary faculty learning community with two engineering education researchers and four faculty members teaching dynamics. This paper documents the process of expanding on lessons learned from implementation of OEMPs in statics courses—as well as one instructor’s experiences with OEMPs in a dynamics courses—to more fully investigate the transferability of OEMPs into undergraduate introductory dynamics courses at multiple institutions.
This paper first describes our process for collaboratively creating new dynamics OEMPs based on formalizing guidelines and sharing lessons learned from statics OEMPs development. We discuss reflections from the faculty members about the value and challenges of designing a dynamics OEMP. We then describe how initial observational feedback was collected from undergraduates at multiple institutions who assessed the new OEMPs from a student perspective. Next, we present the OEMP assignments we created. The paper concludes by describing our plan for qualitatively analyzing interviews with students to understand how students engaged in the productive beginnings of engineering judgment while completing the dynamics OEMPs.
Implications include insights on how students approach and solve complex, ill-defined problems, develop engineering judgment, and build mathematical models. This investigation also provides the future opportunity to compare how students engage in these activities across multiple engineering science courses, institutions (including Carnegie classifications), and engineering subdisciplines. Lastly, this work will help to advance our development of general guidelines for creating and scaffolding an OEMP in any discipline.
Vitali, R., & Treadway, E., & Johnson, A., & Swenson, J., & Nightingale, A., & Ramo, N., & Bell, M. (2022, August), Work-In-Progress: Incorporating Open-Ended Modeling Problems into Undergraduate Introductory Dynamics Courses Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41404
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