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Abstract Title: Using Johnson-Laird's cognitive framework of sense-making to characterize engineering students' mental representations in kinematics
Abstract: The study investigates the kinds of mental representations constructed by engineering students at Kansas State University when solving problems in the context of kinematics. A cohort of 19 students completed six non-directed tasks posed in different representational forms (mathematical, linguistic and graphical) requiring the generation of linguistic or mathematical models. Individual interviews were conducted immediately after completing the tasks. Based on the students' actions when solving the problems together with their interview responses, two main profiles emerged from the data. Johnson-Laird (1983) cognitive framework was then related to the profiles for inferring about the categories of cognitive structures. The framework proposes three types of internal constructs: propositional representations, mental models and mental images. It is argued that comprehension occurs upon the construction of mental models. However, this study revealed that 11 in 19 participants are classified as using propositional representation while the remaining students construct a mental image.

Supported in part by NSF grant 0816207
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Bashirah Ibrahim
Kansas State University
Department of Physics, 116 Cardwell Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-2601
Phone: 785-532-1824
and Co-Presenter(s)
N. Sanjay Rebello, Kansas State University