Engineers must understand how to build, apply, and adapt various types of models in order to be successful. Throughout undergraduate engineering education, modeling is fundamental for many core concepts, though it is rarely explicitly taught. There are many benefits to explicitly teaching modeling, particularly in the first years of an engineering program. The research questions that drove this study are: (1) How do students’ solutions to a complex, openended problem (both written and coded solutions) develop over the course of multiple submissions? and (2) How do these developments compare across groups of students that did and did not participate in a course centered around modeling?. Students’ solutions to an openended problem across multiple sections of an introductory programming course were explored. These sections were all divided across two groups: (1) experimental group  these sections discussed and utilized mathematical and computational models explicitly throughout the course, and (2) comparison group  these sections focused on developing algorithms and writing code with a more traditional approach. All sections required students to complete a common openended problem that consisted of two versions of the problem (the first version with smaller data set and the other a larger data set). Each version had two submissions – (1) a mathematical model or algorithm (i.e. students’ written solution potentially with tables and figures) and (2) a computational model or program (i.e. students’ MATLAB code). The students’ solutions were graded by student graders after completing two required training sessions that consisted of assessing multiple sample student solutions using the rubrics to ensure consistency across grading. The resulting assessments of students’ works based on the rubrics were analyzed to identify patterns students’ submissions and comparisons across sections. The results identified differences existing in the mathematical and computational model development between students from the experimental and comparison groups. The students in the experimental group were able to better address the complexity of the problem. Most groups demonstrated similar levels and types of change across the submissions for the other dimensions related to the purpose of model components, addressing the users’ anticipated needs, and communicating their solutions. These findings help inform other researchers and instructors how to help students develop mathematical and computational modeling skills, especially in a programming course. This work is part of a larger NSF study about the impact of varying levels of modeling interventions related to different types of models on students’ awareness of different types of models and their applications, as well as their ability to apply and develop different types of models.
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Impact of a Modeling Intervention in an Introductory Programming Course
This complete research paper describes the impact of a modeling intervention on firstyear engineering students’ modeling skills in an introductory computer programming course. Five sections of the firstyear engineering introductory programming course at a private, STEM+Business institution were revised to center around modeling concepts. These five sections made up the experimental group for this study. The comparison group consisted of four sections of the course that were not revised. Students in all these sections were given two different versions of a modeling problem two times in the semester to test their progress in gaining modeling skills. Each version required two submissions – a written solution and a coded solution. The assessment of these four submissions based on the three established dimensions of modeling were quantitatively analyzed in this study. The three dimensions within mathematical modeling that were the focus of this study were mathematical model complexity, modifiability, and reusability. Mathematical model complexity is being able to address the complexity of the problem. Modifiability addresses the generalizability of the model solution. Reusability is showing an understanding of the problem and the user. Statistical analysis showed that students in the experimental group had more gains in their demonstrated modeling abilities across all three dimensions than the students in the comparison group. This study demonstrated that intentional and explicit instructional strategies targeting model development resulted in greater gains in students’ demonstrated modeling skills and both their written and coded solutions to a complex modeling problem.
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 Award ID(s):
 1827392
 NSFPAR ID:
 10097551
 Date Published:
 Journal Name:
 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) 126th Annual Conference and Exposition
 Format(s):
 Medium: X
 Sponsoring Org:
 National Science Foundation
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