A Cognitive Study of Modeling during Problem-solving: Accelerating progress toward expert-like performance

Project: Research project

Project Details


The objective of this engineering education research project is the development of pedagogical tools that can be used to enhance the abilities of students to model engineering systems as part of their problem solving process. The project is undertaken in one of the foundational engineering courses, Statics, in which students begin to develop their engineering problem solving and analysis skills. The modeling steps in Statics require students to read the problem, abstract a model of the system to be analyzed, typically a free-body diagram, and then to create a mathematical model of the system using the equilibrium equations. Statics is foundational not only because it is the students' introduction to the modeling processes but also because analogous modeling processes take place in essentially all engineering problem solving that involves analysis.

The project will study the modeling process and identify the major barriers that students must overcome to develop proficiency. Then by using what is learned, along with the experience of Statics educators, to design, implement, and evaluate pedagogical tools to accelerate students' growth toward more expert-like problem-solving skills will be designed, implemented and evaluated. The work, which is informed by the findings of Engineering educators and by research findings and methods from Educational Psychology, will produce proven pedagogical tools that are tied directly to the major barriers to effective modeling during problem solving.

Accordingly, the methodologies and pedagogical tools developed in this project will have wide applicability in engineering education. Furthermore, if students' efforts to accurately and efficiently acquire knowledge of the modeling process during initial instruction can be supported more effectively; there is the potential to accelerate their overall academic development.

Effective start/end date5/1/064/30/10


  • National Science Foundation: $539,645.00


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