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Title: Using schema training to facilitate students' understanding of challenging engineering concepts in heat transfer and thermodynamics
Abstract Background

Chi and colleagues have argued that some of the most challenging engineering concepts exhibit properties of emergent systems. However, students often lack a mental framework, or schema, for understanding emergence. Slotta and Chi posited that helping students develop a schema for emergent systems, referred to as schema training, would increase the understanding of challenging concepts exhibiting emergent properties.

Purpose

We tested the effectiveness of schema training and explored the nature of challenging concepts from thermodynamics and heat transfer. We investigated if schema training could (a) repair misconceptions in advanced engineering students and (b) prevent them in beginning engineering students.

Method

We adapted Slotta and Chi's schema training modules and tested their impact in two studies that employed an experimental design. Items from the Thermal and Transport Concept Inventory and expert‐developed multiple‐choice questions were used to evaluate conceptual understanding of the participants. The language used by students in their open‐ended explanations of multiple‐choice questions was also coded.

Results

In both studies, students in the experimental groups showed larger gains in their understanding of some concepts—specifically in dye diffusion and microfluidics in Study One, and in the final test for thermodynamics in Study Two. But in neither study did students exhibit any gain in conceptual questions about heat transfer.

Conclusion

Our studies suggest the importance of examining the nature of the phenomena underlying the concepts being taught because the language used in instruction has implications for how students understand them. Therefore, we suggest that instructors reflect on their own understanding of the concepts.

 
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Award ID(s):
1232761
NSF-PAR ID:
10454463
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Engineering Education
Volume:
109
Issue:
4
ISSN:
1069-4730
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 743-759
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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