A paradigm for assessing conceptual and procedural knowledge in engineering students

Roman Taraban, Alli DeFinis, Ashlee G. Brown, Edward E. Anderson, M. P. Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Conceptual and procedural knowledge are two mutually-supportive factors associated with the development of engineering skill. The present study extends previous work on undergraduate learning in engineering to provide further validation for an assessment paradigm capable of quantifying engineering students' conceptual and problem-solving knowledge. Eight students who were enrolled in an introductory thermodynamics course and four who were enrolled in the course sequel provided verbal protocol data as they used instructional software. They were compared to existing data from a cohort of eleven science and engineering majors who had not taken thermodynamics. The results replicated earlier findings showing more cognitive activity on computer screens requiring overt user interaction compared to text-based screens. The data also indicated that higher- versus lower-performing students, based on course grades, engaged in more higher-order cognitive processing. There was no evidence that students gained deeper cognitive processing as they advanced through the engineering curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-345
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Assessment
  • Cognitive processing
  • Instructional software
  • Skill development


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