Using cognitive load theory to interpret student difficulties with a problem-based learning approach to engineering education: a case study

Michael Peters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article reports on an investigationwith first year undergraduate ProductDesign and Management students within a School of Engineering and Applied Science. The students at the time of this investigation had studied fundamental engineering science and mathematics for one semester. The students were given an open ended, ill-formed problem which involved designing a simple bridge to cross a river.They were given a talk on problemsolving and given a rubric to follow, if they chose to do so.They were not given any formulae or procedures needed in order to resolve the problem. In theory, they possessed the knowledge to ask the right questions in order tomake assumptions but, in practice, it turned out they were unable to link their a priori knowledge to resolve this problem. They were able to solve simple beam problems when given closed questions. The results show they were unable to visualize a simple bridge as an augmented beam problem and ask pertinent questions and hence formulate appropriate assumptions in order to offer resolutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalTeaching Mathematics and its Applications
Volume34
Issue number1
Early online date4 Feb 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Teaching mathematics and its applications following peer review. The version of record Peters, M. (2015). Using cognitive load theory to interpret student difficulties with a problem-based learning approach to engineering education: a case study. Teaching mathematics and its applications, 34(1), 53-62 is available online at

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