The goal for this Research in Engineering Education project is to identify how computational worked examples coupled with a fading strategy can effectively scaffold student development of representational fluency across qualitative and quantitative representations in engineering. This will be accomplished through these objectives:

Objective 1: Use research on complex task learning to develop and implement a set of computational worked examples.

Objective 2: Use naturalistic and quasi-experimental investigations through design-based research to examine the foundational research question.

Objective 3: Disseminate results to ensure broad impacts among intended audiences.

The foundational research question is: "How computational worked examples can effectively scaffold student development of representational fluency translating from qualitative to quantitative representations?" We will approach this investigation using design-based research coupling phenomenographic methods with quantitative methods. The long-term goal of this research is to establish an integrated evidence based program of research to practice centered on how people develop representational fluency, and to use this knowledge to develop strategies that will prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers to be capable of addressing complex interdisciplinary problems.

Broader Impact and Importance:

Computing is having major implications in discovery and innovation by supporting advances in healthcare, energy, economic competitiveness, and national security. Training and engagement of the next generation of work force engineers able to integrate and take advantage of computation successfully must be an integral part of modern engineering education in order to create new opportunities for complex interdisciplinary work. Graphical representations and other visual representations of the results of computational problem solving are central to scientific research as well as to the solution of complex problems in workplace engineering. Specifically, they are used in engineering as tools to gain insight into the material world, further interpret information about a problem, identify relationships between its components, and provide potential solutions to it. Future engineers need to develop representational fluency, or the ability to describe a problem and solutions obtained using computational tools visually and in physical terms, across diverse types of media. The outcomes of this research will include a set of principles for the design and integration of computational worked examples in engineering disciplinary courses. Findings will boost the chances for engineering discovery and innovation success and will help the United States take advantage of the role of computation in engineering sooner, better, and with greater confidence.

This research is supported by the Research in Engineering Education Program of the Engineering Education and Centers Division.

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Purdue University
West Lafayette
United States
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