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PERC 2019 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Assessing adaptive expertise in undergraduate engineering curricula
Abstract: Engineering programs frequently claim that they teach undergraduate students how to be good problem solvers; however, there has been no research to-date that demonstrates this, in no small part due to the fact that measuring problem-solving is quite difficult. We characterize problem-solving skills exhibited by experts as elements of "adaptive expertise," which includes critical thinking, problem-solving in novel contexts, and the ability to learn and adapt to new situations. We develop an instrument in the context of chemical process design that aims to assess elements of adaptive expertise, and how closely student thinking aligns with this framework. Preliminary investigations reveal that some students lack particular problem-solving skills; most salient is the apparent absence of a predictive framework when solving a problem. This lack of a framework leads students to make fatal errors in problem-solving, including some that they receive explicit instruction in during introductory courses. This research shows that problem-solving may not be a guaranteed byproduct of an undergraduate STEM education.
Abstract Type: Symposium Talk
Parallel Session: Understanding and assessing problem-solving in introductory physics
Session Time: Parallel Sessions Cluster III
Room: Cascade A
Contributed Paper Record: Contributed Paper Information
Contributed Paper Download: Download Contributed Paper

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Eric Burkholder
Stanford University