Teaching Understanding in the Context of Structural Engineering.
Hogan, Rachael A.
- The goal of this research project is to analyze different teaching methods that are effective in encouraging true understanding of fundamental concepts. The hypothesis is that teaching methods seriously influence a student's ability to gain true understanding, especially in the field of structural engineering. Two systems of key factors are identified as the basis for this theory. The first involv... read morees the balance of showing physical relationships, creating intimate learning environments, and presenting role models. The second system includes identifying student preconceptions, developing expertise, and using a metacognitive approach. If all of these components were incorporated into courses, students would develop or maintain the motivation to truly understand concepts they are learning. The validity of this hypothesis has been tested over the course of the academic year in two different courses. The first, Structural Art, was a first-year elective. During this course, a small laboratory section was taught with a focus on learning fundamental concepts of structural analysis through methods illustrated in Figure 3. The second was Introduction to Civil Engineering, taught to sophomores during the spring semester. In this course, the laboratory was based on the students own designs of structural systems that could be analyzed using theory learned in lecture. In both cases, a strong focus was placed on encouraging the students to relate the complex theories they were learning to examples that they understood on a physical level. The intended outcome of this research is to show that, in general, students develop a true understanding of material when the teaching methods outlined in Figures 1 and 3 are employed.read less