A cognitive study of problem solving in statics

Thomas A. Litzinger, Peggy Vanmeter, Carla Firetto, Lucas J. Passmore, Christine B. Masters, Stephen R. Turns, Gary L. Gray, Francesco Costanzo, Sarah E. Zappe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND Even as expectations for engineers continue to evolve to meet global challenges, analytical problem solving remains a central skill. Thus, improving students' analytical problem solving skills remains an important goal in engineering education. This study involves observation of students as they execute the initial steps of an engineering problem solving process in statics. PURPOSE (HYPOTHESIS) (1) What knowledge elements do statics students have the greatest difficulty applying during problem solving? (2) Are there differences in the knowledge elements that are accurately applied by strong and weak statics students? (3) Are there differences in the cognitive and metacognitive strategies used by strong and weak statics students during analysis? DESIGN/METHOD These questions were addressed using think-aloud sessions during which students solved typical textbook problems. We selected the work of twelve students for detailed analysis, six weak and six strong problem solvers, using an extreme groups split based on scores on the think-aloud problems and a course exam score. The think-aloud data from the two sets of students were analyzed to identify common technical errors and also major differences in the problem solving processes. CONCLUSIONS We found that the weak, and most of the strong problem solvers relied heavily on memory to decide what reactions were present at a given connection, and few of the students could reason physically about what reactions should be present. Furthermore, the cognitive analysis of the students' problems solving processes revealed substantial differences in the use of self-explanation by weak and strong students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-353
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Volume99
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Students
student
engineering
Textbooks
Engineering education
textbook
engineer
Data storage equipment
Engineers
education
Group

Keywords

  • Cognitive
  • Metacognitive
  • Problem solving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)

Cite this

Litzinger, T. A., Vanmeter, P., Firetto, C., Passmore, L. J., Masters, C. B., Turns, S. R., ... Zappe, S. E. (2010). A cognitive study of problem solving in statics. Journal of Engineering Education, 99(4), 337-353. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2010.tb01067.x

A cognitive study of problem solving in statics. / Litzinger, Thomas A.; Vanmeter, Peggy; Firetto, Carla; Passmore, Lucas J.; Masters, Christine B.; Turns, Stephen R.; Gray, Gary L.; Costanzo, Francesco; Zappe, Sarah E.

In: Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 99, No. 4, 01.01.2010, p. 337-353.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Litzinger, TA, Vanmeter, P, Firetto, C, Passmore, LJ, Masters, CB, Turns, SR, Gray, GL, Costanzo, F & Zappe, SE 2010, 'A cognitive study of problem solving in statics', Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 99, no. 4, pp. 337-353. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2010.tb01067.x
Litzinger TA, Vanmeter P, Firetto C, Passmore LJ, Masters CB, Turns SR et al. A cognitive study of problem solving in statics. Journal of Engineering Education. 2010 Jan 1;99(4):337-353. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2010.tb01067.x
Litzinger, Thomas A. ; Vanmeter, Peggy ; Firetto, Carla ; Passmore, Lucas J. ; Masters, Christine B. ; Turns, Stephen R. ; Gray, Gary L. ; Costanzo, Francesco ; Zappe, Sarah E. / A cognitive study of problem solving in statics. In: Journal of Engineering Education. 2010 ; Vol. 99, No. 4. pp. 337-353.
@article{d8cfe8e3cdac4a7eaa64036772f22dba,
title = "A cognitive study of problem solving in statics",
abstract = "BACKGROUND Even as expectations for engineers continue to evolve to meet global challenges, analytical problem solving remains a central skill. Thus, improving students' analytical problem solving skills remains an important goal in engineering education. This study involves observation of students as they execute the initial steps of an engineering problem solving process in statics. PURPOSE (HYPOTHESIS) (1) What knowledge elements do statics students have the greatest difficulty applying during problem solving? (2) Are there differences in the knowledge elements that are accurately applied by strong and weak statics students? (3) Are there differences in the cognitive and metacognitive strategies used by strong and weak statics students during analysis? DESIGN/METHOD These questions were addressed using think-aloud sessions during which students solved typical textbook problems. We selected the work of twelve students for detailed analysis, six weak and six strong problem solvers, using an extreme groups split based on scores on the think-aloud problems and a course exam score. The think-aloud data from the two sets of students were analyzed to identify common technical errors and also major differences in the problem solving processes. CONCLUSIONS We found that the weak, and most of the strong problem solvers relied heavily on memory to decide what reactions were present at a given connection, and few of the students could reason physically about what reactions should be present. Furthermore, the cognitive analysis of the students' problems solving processes revealed substantial differences in the use of self-explanation by weak and strong students.",
keywords = "Cognitive, Metacognitive, Problem solving",
author = "Litzinger, {Thomas A.} and Peggy Vanmeter and Carla Firetto and Passmore, {Lucas J.} and Masters, {Christine B.} and Turns, {Stephen R.} and Gray, {Gary L.} and Francesco Costanzo and Zappe, {Sarah E.}",
year = "2010",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1002/j.2168-9830.2010.tb01067.x",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "99",
pages = "337--353",
journal = "Journal of Engineering Education",
issn = "1069-4730",
publisher = "American Society for Engineering Education",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - A cognitive study of problem solving in statics

AU - Litzinger, Thomas A.

AU - Vanmeter, Peggy

AU - Firetto, Carla

AU - Passmore, Lucas J.

AU - Masters, Christine B.

AU - Turns, Stephen R.

AU - Gray, Gary L.

AU - Costanzo, Francesco

AU - Zappe, Sarah E.

PY - 2010/1/1

Y1 - 2010/1/1

N2 - BACKGROUND Even as expectations for engineers continue to evolve to meet global challenges, analytical problem solving remains a central skill. Thus, improving students' analytical problem solving skills remains an important goal in engineering education. This study involves observation of students as they execute the initial steps of an engineering problem solving process in statics. PURPOSE (HYPOTHESIS) (1) What knowledge elements do statics students have the greatest difficulty applying during problem solving? (2) Are there differences in the knowledge elements that are accurately applied by strong and weak statics students? (3) Are there differences in the cognitive and metacognitive strategies used by strong and weak statics students during analysis? DESIGN/METHOD These questions were addressed using think-aloud sessions during which students solved typical textbook problems. We selected the work of twelve students for detailed analysis, six weak and six strong problem solvers, using an extreme groups split based on scores on the think-aloud problems and a course exam score. The think-aloud data from the two sets of students were analyzed to identify common technical errors and also major differences in the problem solving processes. CONCLUSIONS We found that the weak, and most of the strong problem solvers relied heavily on memory to decide what reactions were present at a given connection, and few of the students could reason physically about what reactions should be present. Furthermore, the cognitive analysis of the students' problems solving processes revealed substantial differences in the use of self-explanation by weak and strong students.

AB - BACKGROUND Even as expectations for engineers continue to evolve to meet global challenges, analytical problem solving remains a central skill. Thus, improving students' analytical problem solving skills remains an important goal in engineering education. This study involves observation of students as they execute the initial steps of an engineering problem solving process in statics. PURPOSE (HYPOTHESIS) (1) What knowledge elements do statics students have the greatest difficulty applying during problem solving? (2) Are there differences in the knowledge elements that are accurately applied by strong and weak statics students? (3) Are there differences in the cognitive and metacognitive strategies used by strong and weak statics students during analysis? DESIGN/METHOD These questions were addressed using think-aloud sessions during which students solved typical textbook problems. We selected the work of twelve students for detailed analysis, six weak and six strong problem solvers, using an extreme groups split based on scores on the think-aloud problems and a course exam score. The think-aloud data from the two sets of students were analyzed to identify common technical errors and also major differences in the problem solving processes. CONCLUSIONS We found that the weak, and most of the strong problem solvers relied heavily on memory to decide what reactions were present at a given connection, and few of the students could reason physically about what reactions should be present. Furthermore, the cognitive analysis of the students' problems solving processes revealed substantial differences in the use of self-explanation by weak and strong students.

KW - Cognitive

KW - Metacognitive

KW - Problem solving

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=77958101570&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=77958101570&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2010.tb01067.x

DO - 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2010.tb01067.x

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:77958101570

VL - 99

SP - 337

EP - 353

JO - Journal of Engineering Education

JF - Journal of Engineering Education

SN - 1069-4730

IS - 4

ER -