Ph.D Thesis

Ph.D StudentElena Trotskovsky
SubjectEngineering Thinking: Disciplinary Insights and Pedagogical
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisors Full Professors Waks Shlomo
Full Professors Hazzan Orit
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


In our era, the time constraints of the existing frameworks do not allow undergraduate curriculum to contain all the abundance of modern knowledge. Therefore, the engineering undergraduate students must reach engineering thinking skills that will allow them to acquire new knowledge constantly in the future. Cultivating of engineering thinking in the learning process may reduce the gap between the skills acquired by the novice graduates and the market demands.

Misunderstandings and misconceptions which appear in the process of knowledge acquisition impede students' learning processes. Researchers have investigated these phenomena broadly, but little is known about how misunderstandings relate to engineering thinking. Engineering educators are in charge of helping their students to overpower their misperceptions. Therefore, research of students' engineering-thinking misunderstandings and misconceptions is required to be carried out.

The aim of the current study is to to contribute to the educational research knowledge concerning students' engineering-thinking misperceptions and answer the following questions: (1) How do engineering lecturers characterize students' misunderstandings and misconceptions concerning engineering thinking? (2) How do electric and electronics engineering students express these misunderstandings and misconceptions?

The study involves experienced engineering lecturers and engineering students. Both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies were applied. The data was collected through students' tests, interviews, observations on design process, and project reports analysis.

Three levels classification of students’ engineering-thinking misunderstandings were developed. Based on this classification, the following misunderstandings and misconceptions   were identified and investigated:

         First level: One output function misconception in the courses of Digital Systems;

         Second level: Misunderstandings of engineering electronics models of diode and operational amplifier;

         Third level: Misunderstandings in synthesis and systems thinking in the design process.

Research of students' misconception of one output function shows that proper teaching method can prevent creation of erroneous mental model and help students form a correct understanding.

The study of students' misunderstandings in solving problem using engineering models shows that lecturer’s teaching skills affect student achievements more significantly than individual cognitive abilities and learning experience. Misunderstandings of the aims of engineering solutions and misperceptions of the concepts of accuracy and non-linearity were exposed.

Misunderstandings in block diagram functionality, real life and simulation problems were identified as typical for students performing their design project for the first time. Iterative thinking and reflection as well as strong motivation helped the students who performed a final design project in industry to overcome their misunderstandings.