Developing knowledge in engineering science courses: Sense-making and epistemologies in undergraduate mechanical engineering homework sessions
Constructing and applying conceptual knowledge about physical systems is a core activity
of practicing mechanical engineers. Yet, studies have shown a surprising proportion of
graduating engineering students respond to conceptual questions by recalling fragmented
facts and equations; they struggle to reason systematically about the causal mechanisms
that drive a phenomenon. One ... read moreactivity where students are expected to develop conceptual
engineering knowledge in engineering science courses is during the completion of
assigned homework problems. This dissertation examined six undergraduate engineering
science homework sessions to identify sense-making conversations that may have lead to
conceptual knowledge construction. These episodes of sense-making - or in some cases,
only bids for sense-making - were analyzed to understand student shifts from task
production to knowledge construction. Participants were also interviewed about homework
sessions and other assigned tasks in engineering courses to explore their
epistemologies. The interviews showed specifically what students believe counts as
knowledge in engineering, how they believe they best develop engineering knowledge, and
what pedagogical choices by the instructor students notice as productive for their
development of knowledge. Findings have implications for the design of engineering
science tasks and future research initiatives about conceptual knowledge building during
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2018.
Submitted to the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering.
Advisor: Kristen Wendell.
Committee: Chris Rogers, David Hammer, and Milo Koretsky.
Keywords: Mechanical engineering, Education, and Engineering.read less