Research in expertise and learning transfer suggests that formulating effective solutions to design problems involves the use of conceptual knowledge, inquiry strategies, graphical representation, and tactile cues. Deep conceptual understanding can empower students to transfer the knowledge gained to new situations, while graphical representations can help students to gain insight into the material world, identify relationships between components of a system, and provide potential for new solutions to a problem. This is true for difficult concepts in engineering such as in the Statics domain. Statics is a backbone course for several engineering disciplines and plays a key role in engineering design. However, researchers have identified Statics as a major impediment for students to succeed in follow-on core courses as well as on practical design capstone courses.
Connections between different representations can be scaffolded by presenting major concepts one at a time, and having students experience forces firsthand through the senses of touch and sight. Physical manipulation or tactile exploration can illustrate ideas, communicate thinking, confirm assumptions, test solutions, and integrate ideas. Students can use various representations to negotiate meaning when misconceptions or naive conceptions are present and can deepen such learning by developing and translating within and among multiple representations. This manipulation can help student making clear mappings between the symbols representing primary forces, and the interactions between the bodies. This study explores the role of haptic learning as a mediator for conceptual learning and representational competence in the Statics domain.
The goal of this project is to develop new knowledge about how haptic-based learning experiences can mediate conceptual understanding and representational competence of difficult concepts in Statics. In particular, we will investigate how we can best use touch technologies to help students connect systems behaviors in terms of governing forces and their different representational forms. The newly derived knowledge will inform our understanding about how students “learn by touch” as well as our understanding of the interplay between conceptual understanding and representational competence. Our long-term goal is to identify the extent to which interacting with haptic-based learning experiences (HABLE) mediates students’ conceptual understanding and representational fluency of difficult concepts in statics.
Haptic-Based Learning Experiences as Cognitive Mediators for Conceptual Understanding and Representational Fluency in Engineering Education. Sponsoring Organization: National Science Foundation. Role: Co-PI. Total Award: $325,081. 05/01/2016 – 04/30/2021.