478309 Effect of Experiment Type on Student Learning Capabilities in a Heat Transfer Setting

Monday, November 14, 2016
Grand Ballroom B (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Rachel Cincotta1, Kyle MacDougall2, Edward Bent2, Margot Vigeant3 and Michael Prince3, (1)Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA, (2)Bucknell University, (3)Chemical Engineering, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA

There are many different ways to supplement students’ learning of concepts including experiments and simulations. However, there is a large difference in cost associated with having students complete a computer simulation and having them complete a lab activity on a particular physical phenomena. Because of this difference, it is of interest to know how a laboratory activity compares with a computer simulation in terms of student retention of knowledge of a concept. The goal of this work is to find the most effective supplementary activity to ensure that students understand concepts in a Heat and Mass Transfer class and to ensure that students retain the information from their class.

In teaching heat transfer, inquiry-based activities were created to demonstrate concepts dealing with radiation and confusion over factors impacting rate of heat transfer vs. amount of energy transferred. These inquiry-based activities have four different variations: students individually performing an experiment, students individually performing a simulation of the experiment, faculty demonstration of the same experiment, and faculty demonstration of the same simulation in front of a group of students or a lecture. The main idea of experiments is usually to teach a certain concept that may escape students in a traditional lecture, by using an example of the physical phenomena itself in a situation where students often mis-predict the outcome. Our work is to determine the relative effectiveness of each activity for teaching students concepts within the class.

To determine a student's’ understanding of concepts, quantitative and qualitative data was used. This data was collected from a number of universities (ranging from small private liberal arts schools to large public universities) in the form of concept inventories (quantitative) and post-lab questions (qualitative). The focus of the present study was on the qualitative data. The concept inventories were standardized, multiple-choice tests that were given to students at the beginning and end of their heat transfer course and included questions related to rate vs. amount and radiation. The post-lab questions were questions about the specific lab a student has just completed and are usually answered within a week of the student’s lab or simulation, which occur at some point within the academic semester. All of these together create a way to measure a student’s understanding of the concepts that the inquiry-based activities are meant to reinforce at various points throughout the course. Quantitative and qualitative analyses agree that having students perform experiments results in the highest level of conceptual learning.

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