First steps in understanding engineering students growth of conceptual and procedural knowledge in an interactive learning context

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

The development of procedural knowledge in students, i.e., the ability to effectively solve domain problems, is the goal of many instructional initiatives in engineering education. The present study examined learning in a rich learning environment in which students read text, listened to narrations, interacted with simulations, and solved problems using instructional software for thermodynamics. Twenty-three engineering and science majors who had not taken a thermodynamics course provided verbal protocol data as they used this software. The data were analyzed for cognitive processes. There were three major findings: (1) students expressed significantly more cognitive activity on computer screens requiring interaction compared to text-based screens; (2) there were striking individual differences in the extent to which students employed the materials; and (3) verbalizations revealed that students applied predominantly lower-level cognitive processes when engaging these materials, and they failed to connect the conceptual and procedural knowledge in ways that would lead to deeper understanding. The results provide a baseline for additional studies of more advanced students in order to gain insight into how students develop skill in engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-68
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Volume96
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2007

Keywords

  • Cognitive processing
  • Instructional software
  • Skill development

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