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Difficult Concepts in Science and Engineering: Identifying, Assessing, and Helping Students Learn Them Ruth Streveler (CSM), Mary Nelson (CU-Boulder),

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Presentation on theme: "Difficult Concepts in Science and Engineering: Identifying, Assessing, and Helping Students Learn Them Ruth Streveler (CSM), Mary Nelson (CU-Boulder),"— Presentation transcript:

1 Difficult Concepts in Science and Engineering: Identifying, Assessing, and Helping Students Learn Them Ruth Streveler (CSM), Mary Nelson (CU-Boulder), Barbara Olds (CSM), Ron Miller (CSM)

2 Workshop Overview äWhat science and engineering concepts seem to be most difficult for students to learn? äWhy some concepts are so difficult to learn äSome ways to measure students’ misunderstanding of these concepts. äSome ideas for designing instruction to make these concepts easier to learn

3 What science and engineering concepts are most difficult? äParticipant introductions –Participants team with those in related fields äExercise –What concepts do the students you are most difficult to learn? Individually write down answers (2 minutes)Individually write down answers (2 minutes) Share with your team (6 minutes)Share with your team (6 minutes) –Report back to the whole group

4 Why are these concepts difficult?

5 From the Video... “Sometimes the simplest problems in science defy intuition and the most basic technology is surprisingly difficult to grasp. Is it because we weren’t taught? Or is it because of something deeper? Something about the way we think?”

6 Video Exercise äWhy are some concepts in science and engineering so difficult to learn? Is it because students weren’t taught? Or is it something about the way students think? –Individually write down ideas (2 mins) –Share with your group (6 mins)

7 What is a Misconception? äIn terms of a constructivist view of learning and knowledge, students create mental models describing their view of the world äModels which inaccurately describe phenomena are termed misconceptions or alternate conceptions

8 Misconceptions and Prior Knowledge äStudents come to your classes with at least partially developed mental models which we may term prior knowledge äPrior knowledge is often formed using everyday experience and may involve significant, robust misconceptions

9 How can misconceptions be identified? äResearch methods –interviews –“think aloud” problem-solving –verbal protocol analysis äConcept inventories –multiple choice instruments with conceptual questions (answer list includes common misconceptions as distractors)

10 A Concept Inventory Exercise äIndividually, complete the 4 question concept inventory (2 minutes) äYour team compare answers; develop a consensus answer for each question (5 minutes) äBe prepared to report to the full group

11 Concept Inventories Promote Learning äUnderstanding misconceptions is an essential component of pedagogy äIgnoring micro-level misconceptions and focusing only at the macro-level prevents deep understanding äMicro-level understanding promotes learning transfer Shulman, 1986

12 Expert Blind Spot (EBS) äEBS is the “inability to perceive the difficulties that novices will experience as they approach a new domain of knowledge that arises as a consequence of well- developed subject matter knowledge.” Nathan, Koedinger and Alibali, 2001 äConcept inventories are designed to identify those micro-level difficulties that teachers sometimes overlook because of EBS.

13 Importance of Identifying Misconceptions äStudents will cling to misconceptions unless these fallacies are addressed äIf teachers merely “tell” students the correct answer without addressing the misconception, students will cling to their initial (mis)understanding

14 Importance of Identifying Misconceptions äConcept inventories can be effectively used to inform teaching strategies äConcept inventories help teachers to focus on the benefits of formative assessment rather than just summative

15 Some Guidelines for Repairing Misconceptions äThink about the conceptual knowledge you want students to acquire äUse methods to uncover student pre- or misconceptions of these concepts äAllow students to “experiment” with the concepts äHelp students construct a new conceptual framework for understanding these concepts äFind ways to gather feedback about students’ understanding

16 Helping students construct a new conceptual framework äExample from Chemistry –Mole seen as “mass” not “amount of molecules” äOther examples

17 Misconception Activity äList as many misconceptions in your discipline as you can think of (3 min.) äShare your list with your team and select one important misconception (5 min.) äDiscuss how you might identify the misconception and how you might design a course unit to repair it (10 min.)

18 Our Current Projects äDeveloping an Outcomes Assessment Instrument for Identifying Engineering Student Misconceptions in Thermal and Transport Sciences (NSF DUE-0127806) äCenter for the Advancement of Engineering Education (NSF ESI-0227558)

19 Project Goal “To develop an easy-to-use outcomes assessment tool (concept inventory) that will allow engineering faculty at the course and program levels to identify fundamental student misconceptions in thermal and transport science courses.”

20 Project Objectives äDevelop lists of significant student misconceptions in: –Fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and thermodynamics –Solid mechanics –Electrical engineering äCreate multiple-choice instruments patterned after the Force Concept Inventory äField test the instruments to demonstrate validity and reliability

21 Our Progress to Date äDelphi survey –Methodology Generative roundGenerative round Three iterations to rate itemsThree iterations to rate items –Preliminary results See handoutSee handout

22 For more information äCheck the CSM Center for Engineering Education website: http://www. Check CAEE web site

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